With all the publicity that Contiki has raised with their stunt, Robots Unrivalled* (bringing out scaled-down Robot Restaurant show for two nights in Sydney, Australia) for their new Japan tour package, Japan Unrivalled, I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of tour groups vs planning your own trip.
While some people enjoy the convenience of a tour planned out for them, I’m all for doing it yourself. The hours, weeks and even months that can go into planning an overseas trip can be incredibly exciting, and there’s a certain sense of satisfaction you get when you look at your itinerary and there it is, and you’ve figured it all out yourself. The more you read up on some of the things you might want to do, the more you’ll find out about other places and experiences you hadn’t thought of.
Here are five benefits to organising a DIY overseas tour:
1. Pick all your own travel dates. Tour packages run on particular dates, whereas when you organise your own trip, you can choose exactly which day you go. This can be very useful when you need your trip to fit around certain dates – or even to just negotiate your annual leave with your employer (or perhaps work around your studies, if you’re not in the full-time workforce yet).
2. Keep the trip flexible while you’re over there. Why be constrained by a strict tour schedule when you can change it up as you go? One piece of advice that I’ve seen a lot when it comes to planning a trip is that you should be flexible. Even if – like my partner and me – you plan your itinerary carefully to pack a huge number of activities in, you’ll still find that you need to change things around sometimes, be it due to the weather or because something else comes up. When you’re in charge of your own itinerary, you have the luxury to do this.
3. Save money. While a tour company can give you the convenience of sorting everything our for you, it comes at a price. Tour packages can be incredibly expensive, and even if you simply look at copying their itineraries, you could save as much as several thousand dollars. Organising your own trip means that you can look at all your options and decide whether you want to spend more or save more. If you’re not sure how great the difference would be, you can often get an online quote from a tour company – you might be surprised at how much you can save by organising your own trip.
4. Decide who you’ll be hanging out with. Perhaps you’re travelling with your own friends or family, your partner, or maybe you’re up for a solo tour. Some people love the idea of going on a tour and meeting new people. If you’re one of those people, then by all means consider a tour package. Tour groups can be a great way to make new friends. On the other hand, if you’re travelling with your significant other, some good friends or family, you might prefer to keep to yourselves rather than being forced to spend two weeks with a bunch of other people.
5. Avoid wasting time visiting sites you don’t need to see. There is only so much you can see of any place in two weeks, so make it count and see what you really want. Tour packages will often drag you around to all of the typical tourist destinations. How many shrines do you really need to see in two weeks? Try this in Japan and you’ll probably dream about red gates every night. While most people want to check out at least a few iconic locations and learn a bit of history, you’ll often really enjoy exploring the less ‘touristy’ aspects of a foreign country. You can also get a better feel for a place when you’re not surrounded by hundreds of other tourists at all times.
*To find out more about Contiki’s Robots Unrivalled show, watch this space. I’ll be attending the event and writing about it in just a few weeks.