Are Tour Groups Worth It?

I used to be in the camp that tour groups weren’t worth it–after all, I was a “seasoned traveler”.  I’ve changed my tune more recently, especially when I had a great experience on some tours in France.  I’m considering using Viator to book some tours in New Zealand.

hobbiton new zealand

Travel Update’s Travel Gadget Reviews has a series on whether or not tour groups are worth it, when to use them, and who to book.  I’ve linked to the last post in the series (so far) because it has the links for all the previous posts on the subject.  Check out the posts, they are great!

I personally am a fan of Dark Rome (who has a different name for its company in each city).  I did a wine tour with them in France which wasn’t cheesy.  And I was expecting it to be.  (Though actual cheese is welcome).

These tours also allowed us to skip the line at the Louvre, and helped us find the highlights of the museum (making our time there more efficient).  You could also book a tour to skip the line at the Eiffel Tower, but we didn’t opt to do that.  We decided to spend the money we would have spent on a tour at the restaurant there to skip the line and get drinks.

Eiffel Tower

They can be expensive, so I’d weigh your options and prioritize.  For example, do I want to take a bus around to the different wineries in New Zealand, or do a tour for $100/per person?  The second is an easier experience, but is it necessary?  No.  But a tour may be handier for trekking all over to different sights I would have to rent a car for.  It’s all relative!

What are your thoughts on tour groups?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. I used Dark Rome in Rome for both a Vatican & Colosseum tour. They are roughly $100pp but saved us hours standing in lines and got us some “behinds the scenes” places regular tickets couldn’t. Both guides we had were PhD’s in archaeology and knew so much great info. It’s not the cheapest way to see these sites, but in my experience, it’s the fastest and best!

  2. I used to be against tours , but I’ve come around on it a bit. I think tours can be more than worth it if they’re providing something you can’t do easily alone. I did a couple of tours in New Zealand, one was a Lord of the Rings tour, another was a wine & beer tour in Nelson. When you consider how hard it would have been to get around by public transportation, plus the fact that the tour price includes winery tastings & some snacks, I didn’t mind paying around 100 NZD.

  3. When travelling with groups of friends or family, I prefer tours as it forces us to follow a schedule and prevents us from having an argument or long discussion on ‘what to do next’. It also forces us to just go window shopping for a limited amount of time like 45-60 mins versus an entire afternoon if it was just up to us. When I’m travelling on my own or with a friend or two, I’m fine with exploring on our own without a tour group.

  4. Thanks for the links. We are in our 60’s and have mostly done independent travel. In August we are leaving for a 7 month trip where we hope to see some of what we will no longer be able to do as we age. Most of the flights and about a third of the hotels are on points. We have three 10-12 day tours booked within that 7 months: South Africa, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, all of which would be difficult countries for us to safely and/or efficiently get around. This will be our first time using tours of this length (except for cruises). We are still doing most of the trip independently including Cuba, Peru, New Zealand, and Vietnam. I hope it will be a good mix for us.

  5. I like to use tours at some places.
    If you’re worried about the language like the first time I traveled by myself I was young and went to China, tour was a great option and cheaper than if I had booked everything separately.
    I’ve also done day tours for specialty things like a food tour or if I wanted a guide with in-depth knowledge(this takes planning ahead of time to find someone who will actually be good at explaining things) like when I went to the museum in Istanbul I found a company that provided me a tour guide for a half day for $20 and he had a masters in history, it was fascinating and I got much more out of it than on my own.
    There are also instances where you can’t get to certain places without a tour(the dessert preserve in Dubai) or they can cut huge lines(anywhere in China) or guarantee you a spot where limited tickets are(forbidden city).
    I think there’s also something to be said for it being a vacation and you not having to do they work. I went to southeast Asia and used a local tour group for part of it, great plan, got me to the places I wanted to see, took me to non-touristy restaurants, fulfilled special requests to do things and helped me when I ran into some health issues where I would not have been able to figure them out myself without someone I trusted to translate. I won’t hawk for the company but am happy to recommend them if anyone asks.
    I think the key is to find a reputable company that is not going to take you on a lot of shopping stops and who will show you what you want to see. My sister actually took a tour to Egypt and left it midway through because she hated it so much and my parents have left day tours when they’ve seen what they wanted and didn’t want to be dragged shopping.

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