International Travel – Escorted or Independent Travel

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,780
    AAA travel expert Betsy Sell compares escorted travel with independent travel.

    Betsy Sell: Hello! I am Betsy Sell from AAA Travel, and today we are discussing the basics of international travel. I am sure many of you have wondered about the differences of escorted and independent travel, so let's talk about that.

    Some people think of tour packages as strictly controlled vacation with tightly planned itineraries, and they think of independent travel as self-planned vacations requiring endless hours of research. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Escorted tour companies today cater the different taste, budgets, physical abilities, travel styles, ages and interests. Whether you are interested in a culinary tour of Italy or an African Safari, there are tours available for you. Likewise, many tour companies offer vacation packages that are simply a hotel stay and transportation with plenty of free time, and more involved packages with meals, sightseeing tours, and other services. Many tour operators have packages that offer substantial savings up to 30% of what an individual would pay, because the operators contract in bulk with hotels, accommodations, transportation providers, attractions, and other companies. Bulk purchasing also enables tour companies to secure rooms, attraction tickets, and transportation that otherwise would be hard to combine.

    Now let's talk about the advantages of each, and ask some question that will help you decide whether escorted or independent travel is right for you.

    First escorted travel, if you answer yes to most of the following questions, an escorted tour might be the best for you. Is this your first trip to a foreign destination? Is there a language barrier? Would you prefer to travel with a group of people with similar tastes, interest or similar age? Do you prefer to have activities planned for you? Do you not want to worry about too many extra costs? Do you want assurance that the trip has been planned by professionals, so that in the event of an unforeseen problem you have a representative available to assist you?

    Here are some of the advantages of escorted tours. Escorted tours can take you to see the maximum number of sites in the minimum amount of time with the least amount of hassle. The tour company takes care of all the details of each leg of your journey with many tours activities, meals and transportation included in the price. This offers you peace of mind during your trip, because you'll have a better idea of cost in advance and can budget with greater certainty, as well as paying in US dollars.

    Here are some things to ask. Ask if you can opt out certain activities if you prefer to see something else. Ask what is the size of the group, what transportation is used, and level of hotels. Make sure you are comfortable with these options, and ask if there is a minimum group size, and if the dates you elected are not filled, what will happen, does the supplier offer guaranteed departure dates. Ask exactly what is included in the cost of your tour, and ask questions about the itinerary. Free time can vary greatly even on different vacations with the same tour company. So be sure to pick to an itinerary that you are comfortable with.

    Now let's consider independent travel. Ask yourself these questions and again if you answer yes to most of them then independent travel maybe the way to go.

    Do you prefer to go at your own pace? Do you enjoy research and have the time to do it? Planning your own activities can take a great deal of time. Are you comfortable dealing with unexpected surprises or unforeseen problems that may arise during your trip? Do you prefer to travel in smaller groups with only your friends and family? How much travel during a vacation is required to visit all the places you wish to see during your trip? Are you comfortable with different currencies or driving conditions? Do you speak foreign languages?

    And now a few tips about independent travel. Even if you prefer to visit a destination on your own, consider a one day guided sightseeing tour when you first arrive to get a feel for the destination and to get to know your way around. Prepare yourself in advance with a complete list of contact numbers including your travel agent, hotel transportation, and the US Embassy.

    If you are still unsure about which type of vacation is right for you, you can consider a shorter escorted tour with added independent nights at your destination to explore on your own once you are familiar with a destination, or speak with your travel agent to find out if a escorted or independent travel is right for you.

    So that's the basics of escorted versus independent travel. Next Tom will talk with you about types of currency to use on your international vacation.