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What do you think of joining tour groups?

What do you think of joining tour groups?

Old Aug 12th, 2010, 05:01 AM
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 194
Have you done any reading/research about the places you would like to visit?

Some day trips might benefit by a guided tour but others are rather simple, as is Stonehenge, and a guide will consume time at a site you could see yourself. A tour usually requires a day commitment and then you must be certain any other destinations are of interest to you. Obviously this doesn't apply to all tours, it depends on distance from the city.

As someone already mentioned, seeing London would be the priority for a first trip, unless there is a compelling reason for a day trip. Stonehenge is interesting, but one takes a quick jaunt around the stones and moves on. We didn't visit on our first trip to London and I don't know that I would recommend it as a destination to other first timers.

I imagine the tour groups combine Stonehenge with other sites - it's approx 90 miles outside of London (west)- to create a day trip. So you would have to be interested in the rest of the tour (Bath, 10 miles further, might be included - well worth visiting, a lovely place with medieval and georgian heritage, especially if you adore Jane Austen as I do). For Stonehenge itself, you can travel by train from London to Salisbury where there is a bus connection to Stonehenge. We had a rental car so I can't offer any firsthand experience of the train/bus route.

My advice would be to prioritize the sites in London and then consider traveling beyond the city.

And don't overlook your own reading/research. It should be the first step for determining what you would like to do. It's ok to take advice on travel forums, but only you can decide what is most important to you in your travels. Sort through your groups' interests and decide.

On our travels we do our own walking tours, usually based on a review of several guides, historical texts, and websites. There are many guides devoted to walking tours of London, Paris, and Rome. We've done our own walking tours of the countryside as well. Even if you are leaning toward guided tours you might want to do some reading to get a sense of what you will be seeing.

Happy planning and travels!
portiaperu is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 05:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,047
Everyone has probably said what I am. The internet is such a pool of information that I would think it possible to design your own. It could begin as simply as choosing a travel hotel package to cover getting there.
Where do you want to go? LOTS of places with no depth, or have a good time as a family in 3 or 3?
We went to Europe for 3 weeks with our 3 teens 25 years ago (before the internet!)--no reservations except air and auto.
As others have said, a tour for young people and 50ish will probably not be enjoyable.
There is a "tour" group that used to be used just for air and hotel--ABC tours. They might just give a "skeleton" tour so hotels were taken care of, etc.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 05:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 1,298
Both organized tours and independent travel both have their pros and cons, but I believe that most people who have a bad experience with tours did so because they were under the false impression that taking a tour means EVERYTHING is done for you, and you don't have to do any pre-trip planning and research.
Research the tour company - research the itinerary - research the cities - research the hotels - research your free time. This takes time and work, but you are very likely to pick the perfect tour for you.
Then once on the tour, you can enjoy having your transportation covered, hotels booked, keys handed to you, luggage handled, tour director assistance, and meeting new people.
Either way, it's planning and research that makes for a good trip.
TravMimi is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 06:44 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,590
Well, you've gotten plenty of opinions and as suspected on Fodors Forums many are independent travelers. Some of us though prefer tours depending on what kind. We have been with Globus and it is indeed a more fast paced tour. And others too. As mentioned there are various price levels. Tours do have some advantages despite being in a big bus. However, in England we had a backroads touring in minivan with driver/guide. Some do prefer booking their own hotels and searching out their own dining. BTW, more tours give dining vouchers so you can choose your own.

But we are big into Grand Circle Travel (5 so far) and also Exploritas (31 so far) which used to be Elderhostel but now no age restrictions. The big plus is information about what you are seeing, i.e., you are not just a wandering tourist.
Not only information but critical evaluation about history and culture. You do get acquainted with new friends, too.

Bill now in Boston
[email protected]
Ozarksbill is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 06:50 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 26,710
And in Madrid, would going to Toledo need a guide as well?

No, you will, however, need a willing pair of knees as the town is hilly. There are many buses and trains that leave regularly from Madrid.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 07:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,007
London Walks does do trips outside of London, so keep that in mind when looking at their itineraries. I just did a day trip this past weekend to the Cotswolds. This trip only runs in summer due to the walking across fields. It was a great, but long, day. Our train left Paddinton at 9:35 a.m. and we returned just after 7:00 p.m. The train ride itself was about 1h45m and then we still had a 30 minute bus ride after that. We visited Chipping Campden and Upper and Lower Slaughter.
beanweb24 is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,047
I have just seen the proposed itinerary and I hope there are unlimited funds!! Has the OP actually seen a tour company that offers that itinerary?
Gretchen is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 07:42 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,026
I don't care if they paid me in gold, I would never do a bus-type tour around a country or region. My friend Mitsuko always does these. Yes, you might see alot, but not for very long.

When Mitsuko and her DH traveled with us for 10 days Scotland and England a few years back she said she had never seen so much and loved it that we could spend as much or as little amount of time as we wished in the various locations. We took them to places no bus tour would ever go. Also, we could change our minds, not so on a tour.

daveesl is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 07:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 21
Gretchen: haha it's not the itinerary yet! I was just posting what others suggested that we could see outside of the main cities, so we will end up picking one or two daytrips at most.

We were planning 5 days in each city - Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London. Although it's never going to be enough (!!!), we're thinking it would suffice for us to see what we could, along with a trip or two to surrounding areas.

I know my original post asked about tours for young adults and 50-somethings, but I'm now planning it for our honeymoon scheduled in spring next year. So, Aduchamp1, I guess Toledo shouldnt be a problem for us.

Is there anything to do outside of Barcelona apart from going to Montserrat?

Thanks for all the help by the way Planning has never been this much fun!
cokes is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 5,287
If those four cities are your goals, you do not need a guided tour. You would do better with air/hotel or air/transport packages. Also, there will be no prohibition to buying a city tour when you get to a place and want an overview for half a day.

Nothing will require the 50's and 20's to do the same thing all the time, either.
AJPeabody is online now  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 03:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,047
Well, geez, the difference between planning for 2 vs. 5 of differing ages needs a new post.
AND I was not saying deep pockets for the side trips. I am talking about going from London to Madrid, etc. Choose the most expensive places and visit. Paris "can" be the bargain destination of Eruope in myopinion. London isn't.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2010, 04:32 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 191
I was very impressed with Context tours for guided/day tours - they have locations in some of the cities you are visiting. Small groups (your families would take up the whole group or close to it, likely) and grad student/professional guides.
Keiracaitlyn is offline  
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