Sunday, October 6, 2013

Touring Done Right-10 Tips from An Avid Traveler (Guest Blogger)

I've invited my first guest blogger to my site, Jennifer, of My Fabulous Code. She and I both love to travel and we were recently talking tours. Are they worth it? I asked her to share her wisdom on the subject.

To Tour or Not to Tour
I’m Jennifer Jane a fellow blogger at My Fabulous CODE ( and I’m also an avid traveler.  I wanted to lend my perspective on Kandice’s latest topic:  should you take a tour? Well first let’s define tour since there are so many different types of tours designed to serve a myriad of purposes. I will discuss the types of tours that are familiar to me.
Travel Group Tours
There are travel group tours where you book your entire trip around an agenda put together by the tour organizer. These travel groups are generally made up of several people who may or may not know each other. I think these are great if you’re traveling solo or internationally to a destination you’ve never visited, or have visited but still not totally familiar. On the flip side they can be limiting and not customized to the degree that it will suit everyone’s needs and desires. For this reason, travel groups don’t always suit me. I know I can be particular about where I sleep, where I eat, what I eat, where I go, what activities I participate in and what experiences I hope to gain. In addition, I may not want to be tethered to the same group of people for the duration of my vacation. I think getting out and meeting the locals is necessary for a fulfilling vacation (especially when traveling internationally). Funny enough, I consider myself a go-with-the-flow kind of girl, but I have to approve of the flow.
Activity Based Tours
Activity based excursions can include restaurant, shopping, clubbing, wine tasting and more! Now these I like! Because they are restricted to a window of time, you are only committing a portion of your day to the tour. In addition, it’s usually a native to the land who organizes the tour so you learn about the little hidden neighborhood gems you may have otherwise overlooked.  I really like these because they are specific to the experiences I want to have. For example, I probably would not select a tour aimed at fishing or hunting, but I would totally take a wine tasting tour. 
While on a recent vacation in Madrid, Spain, I participated in a fantastic tapas tour. For $65 each, my boyfriend and I along with four other tourists met up with our local tour guide, Ishmael, who prearranged for us a sampling of popular tapas dishes at five different restaurants in Madrid’s town square. It was one of our favorite experiences in Madrid.  Oh, I forgot to mention the tour also included wine at every stop!
SightSeeing Tours
This is a great way to learn the city you’re visiting. Neighborhood tours, architecture tours, museum and park tours are just a few that give you a real inside look into the history and evolution of a city. I prefer walking tours over bus tours because I like to get close and personal with my surroundings, after all that’s what I came for. I still take advantage of the bus tours because it covers a greater distance and so I get to see more of the city.     
Here are my rules for tours when I’m on vacation:
1.       I schedule tours the first couple days of my vacation so I can get a lay of the land and decide which places and activities I want to incorporate into my itinerary.
2.       I schedule tours early in the day so I can see everything in the day light. The exceptions to this rule would include dinner or clubbing tours.
3.       I confirm tour details the day before.
4.       I print off any tour or confirmation documentation.
5.       I always talk to the tour organizer to get recommendations on where to hang out, shop, eat, party, etc.
6.       I don’t select tours that take up more than half of my day.
7.       I have a backup plan in case I need to abort a tour gone awry.
8.       I always carry my own map for jotting down places I want to return to later.
9.       I tip the tour guide especially if they have given me a great experience and some recommendations to check out.
10.   Always leave with a great story to tell.