Tour Groups: Pros, Cons & Deciding if They’re For You

by SharonKurheg

Like many people, Joe and I have traveled in a few different ways:

  • Initially, with family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
  • With friends
  • Just the 2 of us
  • Solo travel
  • Many people have, of course, also traveled with their own families once they’re adults and have kids. Joe and I don’t have kids so we’ve never experienced that type of travel
  • Group tours

That last category, going on group tours, is really its own thing, quite different from traveling with people you know. It has its place, but also isn’t for everybody.

Going on a group tour has its own set of pros and cons. Before you go on one, it’s probably best to consider both, so you can determine if going on a group tour is something that’s for you or not.

Pros of group tours

You don’t have to plan much

Probably one of the best parts of going on a group tour is that you don’t have to do a lot of planning. Group tours are generally pre-set, so there’s a lot less work to do ahead of time. Although you may have some free time where you’ll have to decide what to do, for the most part, the itinerary is already laid out for you.

You don’t have to worry about transportation

If you’re making your own travel plans, you have to figure out all the logistics of getting from Point A to Point B to Point C, to Point D, etc. Plane? Train? Rent a car? Even going from place to place within a city can be daunting. With a tour, they already have the bus/shuttle/flights all done for you (as an example, this would never have happened if we were on a tour)

You have the opportunity to make new friends

Meeting new people is not necessarily a positive for everyone (I’m an introvert; I totally get it).

a white sign with black textBut for those who are not uncomfortable about hanging out with strangers for days on end, it’s a great way to meet new people.

Some group tours are even made for specific groups, such as singles, LGBTQI+, seniors, people of certain skin colors or religions, etc. So you may be in a group of people who you have something in common with.

You don’t have to travel solo

Some travelers have no one to travel with because of reasons. Going on a group tour allows you to avoid having to travel solo (this might be especially important for women, who may not feel safe going to certain locales on their own).

The safety factor

Speaking of safety for solo women travelers, some locations in the world are simply not as safe as others, regardless of gender. The mere fact that you’re part of a group can increase your safety. Your guide will also (hopefully) look out for you, since they know how to avoid potential problems.

Having a guide who’s familiar with the area can also help you from getting ripped off by merchants, warn you about potential issues ahead of time, etc. (i.e. when we were going to Angkor Wat, our guides warned us that the merchants in a particular area were particularly ruthless in trying to sell things to tourists. They told us how to respond to them [or rather, NOT respond] so the merchants would leave us alone and we wouldn’t get stuck buying something we didn’t want.

You learn more about what you’re experiencing

A tour usually has guides who are familiar with your locale and can tell you more about what you’re experiencing, as you experience it, than what you may learn on your own.

You get to do things you otherwise might not experience

Our most recent group tour was to Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia. Some of the activities included seeing things that required hiking up literally hundreds of steps.

I’m not a big fan of stairs because of my asthma. I can do the hike; it just takes me a long time because I have to rest and catch my breath so often. If there was a certain view we wanted to see, we might do the hike, albeit very slowly.

Because we were on the tour, I was able to say I’d stay at the hotel (because I didn’t want to slow the rest of the group down), and Joe was able to go on the hike with the rest of the group, at a more normal pace (read: not have to stop every 20-25 steps so I could stop gasping for breath). He might not have gone if we weren’t on the tour, instead saying let’s not bother, knowing that it would be a difficult activity for me.

A group tour may also allow you to experience activities only open to groups, or that might be difficult if the activity doesn’t have any sort of English translation and you don’t speak the language, or that you literally just wouldn’t have found on your own.

It could be cheaper

Because tours get group rates for hotels, activities, restaurants, etc., going on a tour may wind up being less expensive than if you planned everything on your own.

Budgeting is easier

When you’re on a group tour, you may still need to pay for some things. Alcoholic drinks. Souvenirs. A meal or two. Tips for your guides. But going on a group tour means it’s easier to budget because you know you have your upfront cost already done and it’s just those little incidentals to consider.

You always have someone to take your photo

Sometimes you don’t want a selfie; sometimes you want a real, full-body-with-background shot. You may be able to get a stranger to take your picture (and hope they don’t steal your camera/phone). But if you’re in a group, there’s always someone to ask to take your picture (and they may ask you, as well).

Cons of group tours

You’re generally stuck with their itinerary

Group tours have a set itinerary and there’s little wiggle room for choice. So you may miss something you’ve always wanted to see, because it’s not on the tour. That might not always be the case (i.e. on our tour of Vietnam, a part of the group, a family of 4 said they would skip {whatever the afternoon/evening activities were] because they were going to see something else), but sometimes it can be.

The same goes for where you get to go shopping. The scheduled “shopportunities” we had on our Adventures by Disney tours were at places that sold art, jewelry, specialty coffees, etc. None of that is for me – give me a touristy crap shop ANY time. 😉 (to be fair, we went past those too. But the few times we actually stopped at places that had those, we had, like, 5 minutes to explore. We had 45 minutes at the art and jewelry place though).


Similar to being stuck with a group tour’s itinerary, you’re also pretty much married to their scheduling. Not a morning person? Sucks to be you if the first activity of the day consistently starts around 8am (I may or may not be saying that from personal experience LOL).

There’s little opportunity to be spontaneous

Because you’re on a set itinerary, being on a group tour means you don’t really get a chance to explore. See a sign for a waterfall down this path and you want to check it out? Too bad, because the group is on their way to a lookout over there.

Guided tours can be exhausting

This goes hand-in-hand with scheduling. When you travel on your own, you go at your own pace. When you’re with a guided tour, you’re at the mercy of their planning more than you’d typically do, walking faster than you’d prefer, etc. It can be a constant go-go-go for upwards of 12 hours at a time and by the time the tour is done, you need a vacation because of your vacation.

All. The. Peopleing

Group tours mean a whole lot of being and interacting with others. If you’re an extreme introvert, that may not be your idea of a great vacation.

Even if you’re not an introvert, sometimes you just may not be compatible with the other people on your tour. You may be stuck with people you really don’t like, don’t want to talk to, etc.

Your guides might not be that great

Just as you may or may not like your fellow group tour members, your tour guide could be awesome…or not. Or sometimes your main tour guides are great but your local guides may not be your cup of tea.

The cost

Yeah, I know I said the cost of a group tour could be cheaper than doing it alone. On the other hand, some group tours wind up costing more than if you did everything without a tour. You need to do your homework.

Paying up front

Going on a group tour means paying for that tour months ahead of time. For some people that could be an issue.

Are group tours for you?

Obviously, whether or not group tours are something you should consider is a Your Mileage May Vary situation.

Joe and I have been on about a half dozen Adventures by Disney group tours (the American Southwest, Australia/Tasmania, The Rockies/Banff, Hollywood/Disneyland, Ireland, and Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia). We’ve also been on one (to Cuba) that was a private tour with guides but all planned for us, and another (Iceland – here are 17 Iceland tips the guide books don’t tell you about) where our hotels and rental car were taken care of and our itinerary included “recommended” locations but which we went to was up to us.

We’ve found that when going to a location we know little about, especially one where English is not the primary (or secondary) language, we much preferred doing a tour – that was especially true for Cuba, Iceland and our recent tour to SE Asia. We’ve also gone on one (that Disneyland tour) because it allowed us to see some behind-the-scenes things that, at least at the time, were only available to people on the tour.

Like I said, group tours have their place. They have their pros and their cons. We’ve determined they’re good for us some of the time. How about you?

Feature Photo: Public Domain by Oregon DOT

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

Christian February 27, 2023 - 6:11 pm

I’m not a tour fan personally. The waiting on the slowest person so you can proceed to the next place you’re told to be drives me nuts. Somebody is inevitably late and that just eats into your time. I also like to wake up when I choose rather than having to put my suitcase outside my door before sunrise. You also get a lot less time to do what you want so you miss out on lots of the little experiences that make travel memorable. That said, I’m not anti-tour. It’s just not for me at this point.


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