There are a growing number of travel companies devoted to providing travelers with cost efficient, highlight packages. You have options to travel with a like-minded group for a single day, weekend, or for the entirety of your trip. Pricing typically includes accommodation, transportation and tourist site fees – but is something to pay extra attention to.
By having some of the planning taken care of, there is definitely less stress involved in using a travel company. It is also easier (not necessarily cheaper) to budget considering the majority of the costs are upfront. Aside from the obvious costs, you’re also paying to be led by experts. This means that their “inside knowledge” becomes yours, whether it’s pieces of information about what do when the group breaks for free time or their commentary about a particular tourist site. The possible downside to being led by someone who visits the same places day in and day out and something to be aware of is that their recommendations may be based on the convenience and discount offered by the establishment. Meaning; you may not experience many neighborhood shops or up & coming restaurants. As a foodie, I find this aspect a bit frustrating. I learned the hard way that most restaurant suggestions were made because of their proximity or the group discount offer – not necessarily because their food or service was the best.
Nic and I booked several walking tours throughout our trip – some were arranged the day of and some were booked weeks beforehand. Looking back, the most important aspect was not only the guide’s knowledge, but their attitude. It was easy to discern who had a real passion for history and culture and who was just trying to get paid. If possible, I recommend Yelping not only the company, but their guides as well. If you see one name in particular over and over, followed by rave reviews….he/she is probably who you want leading you. I personally only review guides if their either really good or really bad.
Places I definitely recommend a guide for: The Roman Forum, The Vatican and anywhere you have a particular interest in. Be honest, you’re not going to thoroughly research a historical site before showing up and a lot of artifacts are quite boring when you don’t know the story behind them…
We booked a package with Bus2Alps on their Amalfi Coast weekend tour (which was named the #1 tour in Europe by TourRadar). It was the last leg of our trip and for once, I was happy to give up control (or so I thought). I’ve devised a list of pros/cons of booking this particular package. Edit: Some of the pros could be considered cons and vice versa depending on what you value and expect from an organized tour.
- We weren’t in charge of where we were going to stay or how we would get there, details that get tiresome after a month of constant travel.
- We visited Sorrento, Capri, Positano and Pompeii in three days. We would not have been able to afford nor successfully arrange getting from one place to another on our own.
- Some of the activities recommended to us were things we would have missed out on otherwise like paddle-boarding and taking the chairlift up to Mt. Solaro.
- The only expenses we worried about over the weekend were food and souvenirs. Oh, and wine.
- The guides were very nice and organized.
- I had to let go of the reigns and follow someone else’s schedule.
- We often moved at a slower or faster pace than I would have liked.
- Bus2Alps is for students studying abroad and I quickly realized…I’m not in college anymore and I don’t particularly like drinking like it either.
- I get more car sick on coach buses than I thought.
- Some package highlights were oversold. A “Limoncello Tasting” in Capri was more like a shop attendant reluctantly handing out tiny samples to the public.
My personal takeaway from the experience is that it really comes down to what type of trip you are expecting and to what degree you like to be involved in the planning. I personally prefer to lead rather than follow. Bossiness aside, I do see myself trying out other tour companies in the future. I’m drawn to the idea of meeting like-minded people on the road and experiencing new cultures together – if only for the story! I recommend Bus2Alps to students who are currently studying abroad and looking to get the most bang for their buck for a weekend getaway.
Leave a comment if you’ve booked with a travel company that you would recommend that I check out (or avoid)!