Self Travel vs. Guided Travel Self Travel vs. Travel Agencies

There are many different types of travelers. There are the ones who like to do everything themselves, the ones who want everything done for them, luxury travelers and the Inbetweeners.  Depending on how much work you are willing to put into your trip from planning to booking and the actual act of traveling, there are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Guided Travelers are the people who want everything planned out for them, leaving nothing to the imagination. These are the people who have signed up for a Guided Tour and are usually part of a larger group. They may be responsible for booking their own flights to and from the tour starting point as well as being responsible for some or all of their meals.  For the most part, their schedule and activities have all been planned out for them.  Guided Tours are fine for the first time traveler, the less adventurous or for people who don’t want the headache of having to deal with all that is involved in planning a trip.

Self-Travelers are the people who want to do most everything themselves, not relying on an organized tour group.  They do all the planning on their own, or may simply wing it as they go. Extreme self-travelers are the young kids just out of school who plan to backpack across Europe for weeks or months carrying everything they need with them including a tent and sleeping bag and plan to stay in hostels and campgrounds. The less-extreme self-travelers are the ones still backpacking across Europe, planning to stay in hostels and inexpensive hotels and are on a very strict budget.  Finally, there is the more typical self-traveler who likes to plan their entire trip including everywhere they will go and everything they will do.  These travelers are on a budget but can still afford to splurge here and there.  They typically stay in average priced mid-range hotels with the occasional hostel thrown in for the experience or at the occasional luxury hotel for a night in someplace special.  Their meals will be in typically nice local restaurants trying to experience everything a location has to offer.  These travelers may also be what we call 'Inbetweeners', participating in self-travel but may on occasion join a guided day-trip tour group when it makes sense.

Of course there are the Luxury Travelers.  This group of travelers may or may not be part of a tour group and may have an accompanied guide with them throughout their entire journey.  They may have an idea of where they would like to go and what they would like to see and do, but their itinerary has probably been planned out for them.  Money is no object and the plan to stay in luxury hotels and eat in the finest restaurants.

Self Travel      Guided Travel
The best thing about Self Travel is that you get to set your own schedule, planning the locations you will visit and everything  you plan to see and do.  You are not subject to time constraints that may be imposed on a guided tour and you are free to deviate from your planned schedule should you decide to do so.

Planning a trip on your own means you are responsible for everything.  You will need to booking all your required accommodations as well as all your transportation including getting to/from your starting point and any other required travel such as rail, busses and ferries.  You will be paying for everything separately including your hotels, transportation, meals and activities.

If you are traveling to a single location such as Paris and are planning to stay in a single hotel the entire time exploring the sites, planning will not be that difficult.  Other than arriving and departing Paris, your only transportation may be getting to/from the airport and your hotel as well as navigating the subway system.

If your trip involves multiple loctions and accommodations, planning will be much more complex as you will need to coordinate your hotel bookings, transportation and activities with all your arrival and departure dates.  You will also need to research how to navigate around each location including getting to/from your hotels and sites.  Based on everything you plan to see and do, you will need to estimate the amount of time required at each location.

Depending on the situation, there may be times when the best thing to do is book a day-trip with a tour company or in some cases hire a private taxi for the day.  For example, when we were in Delhi India, we absolutely had no desire to rent a car and attempt to drive there.  It was far more economical and safe to simply rent a private taxi for the day to take us around to the local sites.

When you plan your own trip, you are able build in time for unexpected detours.  Detours can be anything from deciding to stay longer in a specific location or stop to explore something you see along the way.

While traveling on your own, you will run into people as you go and depending on where you are staying and your activities, you may make some new friends along the way.

When traveling on your own, you won't get the special attention tour groups may receive such as bypassing long lines to enter popular attractions.  In many cases, there are ways to avoid lines if you know what to do.  You may be able to alter your entry to an off peak time, make an on-line reservation for a specific day and time ahead of your arrival allowing you to bypass the crowds, purchase a city pass in some cases, or depending on the cost, join a day tour group simply to bypass the entry lines.

You must be more adventurous to travel on your own as you will be just that, on your own!  Should anything go wrong, you will have to deal with it yourself, not having the help of others or guides in a group.

Sometimes tour groups may receive special access to sites that are not available to the independent traveler.  We have found that sometimes it can be just the opposite.  We have been on castle tours as the only couple allowing us to go at a faster pace than a group would go.  Due to the extra time and the fact there were only a couple of us, the guide was able to take us through hidden areas of the castle where groups do not typically go.

With all that we have said about self-travel, there are times and locations when traveling with a tour group makes the best sense.  Although it is entirely possible to create your own personalized trip through Egypt, you may feel safer in such an environment with a group.  With that being said, we have planned our own self guided trips with some reserved day-trips to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Beijing China and through some remote areas of Transylvania, all without any issues whatsoever.

  Guided Travel involves joining a group of travelers lead by an experienced tour guide.  The entire trip may be planned out for you including the locations you will visit as well as the sites you will see and other activities.  There may be occasional free time but for the most part everything will be on a strict schedule.

All your accommodations will more than likely be planned out and booked for you as part of the tour package.  For your transportation, you may be responsible for booking you main travel to/from the tour group starting point, but beyond that all other travel will more than likely be scheduled and booked by the tour agency.

Your only expenses are the tour fee, possible transportation to/from the starting point, meals not included in the tour package and any extras you purchase on your own.

There is basically nothing to plan as everything has been planned out for you on the tour including the locations you will visit your activities and the sites you will see.  You may have the option to book additional excursions at certain locations for an additional cost.  Excursions may be self-guided, or you may be going with others and a guide as well.

On a guided tour, the amount of time you have to spend at each location if very structured.  It's highly improbably that you would be able to adjust your time to stay longer somewhere or to stop and explore something you may see along the way.

Tour groups typically try to cram as much as they can into a short amount of time.  You may visit a different location every day or so, but did you really have time to take in all there is to offer?  You may also be escorted with a guide at some locations when the best and most fun thing to do is explore on your own.  There may be locations where you stop during the day for a few hours when you should have stayed the night but were unable to due to the tight schedule.

With your group, you will undoubtedly meet new people and as you interact with them over the course of your trip, you may make new friends or travel companions for future trips.

Often tour groups will receive special attention when it comes to entering attractions that the self-traveler will not receive.  They may be able to bypass the long lines by going directly to the front as a group.

If you are not comfortable traveling on your own, then traveling with a group may be the way to go.  There is definitely more of a feeling of security when traveling with a group.  Also, should anything go wrong, they are there to help you though it.

As tour groups are continually bringing people back to the same locations, they may have negotiated special access to certain sites that other travelers would not be able to see.  By simply being part of a group, you may get to see and do things that others may not.

If you have limited travel experience and do not feel comfortable traveling on your own, you may want to consider traveling with a tour group your first time.  This will give you a taste of what to expect when visiting different countries and interacting with people in different cultures.  Once you have completed your first trip, you may want to try planning your own personalized adventure, selecting the locations and activities you want to see and experience.

Depending on your comfort level, you may want to start with a single city trip to somewhere like London where they speak English and there is no need to drive as you can take the train to/from the airport and only need to navigate the subway system which is remarkably easy.  If you feel comfortable, plan a day trip to another location such as Windsor to tour the town and castle.  Later when you have gained experience and comfort level has increased, plan more complex trips to other destinations involving multiple countries and cities.

The modusTravel Trip Planner & Mobile Trip Profile

Regardless of the type of traveler you are and whether you plan your trips yourself or choose a guided tour group, our Mobile Trip Profile can prove to be invaluable while on your travels.

Even if you are not making your own bookings, your trip profile can still track all the locations you will be visiting along with your scheduled activities.