To make the most out of your travel it is important to choose the style of trip that suits you best. My first major travel without my family was a 2 month Grand European tour with Contiki – a sightseeing extravaganza visiting 14 countries in 58 days. I had a fabulous time and it wasn’t the continuous drunken party that such tours are often criticized for. But I’m not really a big bus tour girl. The tour that followed confirmed that once and for all: I did a 2 week tour of England, Scotland and Wales where most of my fellow passengers were 40 years older than me and we spent the whole time either on the bus or following the guide around some sight.
I would much rather spend my money on visiting and experiencing things than on expensive hotels. I also find it stressful trying to drive and find my way around strange places particularly where they use ‘the wrong side of the road’. And I hear so many stories of how people can spend most of their day trying to locate their next accommodation. All part of the experience I’m sure, but I would much rather be out there enjoying every moment of what my new surroundings offer. Similarly it seems pointless to me to spend all that money to go somewhere and then just stay by the pool or spend the whole day at the beach. I’m also not really a big city girl. I do like to visit cities and see and experience the must-do things but I’d much rather go to places off the beaten track, experience different cultures, ancient civilisations and all the wonders of nature.
I have found my perfect travel style: small group tours with Intrepid Travel. There a maximum of 12 people; no age limit and (almost) always like-minded fellow travellers. They travel on local transport or in small vehicles (which may include camels or boats) with local drivers. They stay in small family-owned hotels or other intriguing places. In each area you also have a local guide who can take you to places far from the usual tourist trail and often invites you to their home to eat with their family. A local homestay and ability to really get to know the locals is often a highlight of the trip. There is plenty of free time in most places for you to do whatever or go wherever you like, and generally others who want to do similar things. Some activities are included in the tour and other optional activities are recommended – but the guide can usually help you organise whatever it is you’d like to do.
I have been very happy to do several of the trips by myself. A single supplement is available on some trips but mostly the approach is that you shouldn’t have to pay more to travel alone and you are paired up with a fellow traveller of the same sex. On the trips I’ve been on, they have also rotated people around so that you aren’t stuck with one person and if there are an uneven number of people that you all get a chance to have a room to yourself.
The trips are very cost effective. Nearly every time I have compared a range of different tours for an area, the Intrepid version has given the best range of places visited, experience the widest range of things, and at the best price. People initially assume I must spend tens of thousands on my travels but usually a whole month of travel, everything included – flights, food etc – costs about $6000. It certainly helps the budget when travelling to less developed countries.
Some friends say I am an intrepid traveller (pun intended) and are amazed that I am happy to spend a night staying with strangers in some remote place where they don’t speak English. But these same friends are quite happy to go to South America, hire a car and drive themselves around everywhere finding their own accommodation. To me that would be far more challenging than going to a fascinating place and communicating with people who want to share their lives with you. Other friends say that my holidays sound exhausting and they would much prefer to go and lie on the beach at a resort somewhere.
So each to their own, but whatever your style (and that of your travel companions), it certainly pays to work that out in advance so that you can have the best possible holiday for you.
If you are interested in travel, please also see my post on Comparing Travel Styles, and visit:
Intrepid Travel (a range of different travel styles)
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
Note: After people telling me they had booked an Intrepid Tour on my recommendation, I now have affiliate links with the Intrepid Travel group of companies and may receive a commission if you book a tour online within a couple of months after clicking through to these sites. So if you are enjoying my tips and stories and finding them useful in choosing your own travel, please click on these links and help me to bring you more ☺.