Solo Travel — Determining the Pros and Cons of DIY vs Guided Tours
(This is a guest post written by Junn Greene and contains affiliate links)
Solo travel makes you look at things through a different light, from an altered set of eyes. There may be great anticipation looking forward to the long road ahead. And once you come home from a trip, you get the feeling that part of your soul still lingers in that special place. However, at the back of these intangible advantages rests a topic that remains in minds (and pockets) of travellers.
When planning for a trip, you might painstakingly crunch numbers to weigh the pros and cons of do-it-yourself vs. guided tours. Come to think of it, like almost everything in this world, solo travel has its advantages and disadvantages. The keys are: understanding what’s essential and knowing what drives you.
Before the Flight
If you’re starting off your trip from, say, London, it’s better to find out if the airport you’re flying from has available parking spaces, as the city is famous for having some of the busiest landing fields in the world. When driving to an airport like Gatwick, know that going on a DIY route will be your best bet. Reserving a parking spot for your vehicle not only saves you money in the long run, but also valuable time. You’ll also need to know what kind of parking best suits your needs. Parking4Less, a parking aggregator site from the UK, lists North Terminal’s long stay and summer special, as well as South’s long stay and long stay plus, as the four options to choose from. You can easily compare and decide what will work best for you.
During the Flight
Determining whether to DIY or use a guided tour package may be a toss up once inside the airplane. On one hand, you can tick off in-flight meals and/or check-in baggage if you bring packed meals and travel with only a carry-on. That way, you can eliminate extra flight costs. On the other hand, promo packages iron out your whole itinerary from the flight, to the pick-up, to the tour itself, so all you have to do is enjoy the whole trip.
After the Flight
The really fun part begins upon arrival. Say you’ve done your homework manually and researched about the best places to stay and visit. You now have all the freedom in the world to explore what an urban metropolitan area such as Mainz has to offer. Going DIY presents you plenty of opportunities to take in the beauty of Gutenberg Museum, or appreciate the magnificence of the Mainz Cathedral, without the restrictions of other tourists, long lines, or time limits. You’ll have more flexibility to get lost and discover other lesser-known activities in the city. You will also have more control over what you spend your money on.
In contrast, when going on a Southeast Asian temple adventure or an Eastern African safari, booking a guided tour becomes the wisest and safest choice. That way, you won’t have to worry about paying for additional charges like environmental fees. You may feel safer and more comfortable knowing that you’ll take on challenging terrains alongside other like-minded travellers. And the added stress of figuring out schedules and itinerary is removed.
There’s a massive amount of satisfaction that comes from travelling solo. Other than seeing and immersing yourself in vast cultures around the world, you get to make new friends along the way. You learn to be independent and even more confident. Essentially, you can easily point out the pros and cons of do-it-yourself vs. guided tours, making it difficult to decide which is better. It might be best to decide as you go, choosing what works for you in each situation. Perhaps every trip may be a combination of DIY and guided tours! Travel has so many benefits, and at the end of the day, it all contributes to your growth and wellbeing.
Would love to hear your thoughts on DIY vs guided tours when traveling solo–please share your comments below…
My personal recommendation when travelling abroad is to choose a broad based tour if I’m visiting a place I’ve never been. That gives me a general overview of points of interests as well as time/distance between points. This is especially true and helpful when I’m in non-English speaking areas. Then when I go back to the area, I can select destinations that I’m truly interested in and have a good feel for time allocation. When traveling domestically, I choose to read up about the place before I leave, ask a few locals for recommendations when I land, and wing it at my own pace.
Thanks so much for your input, Joanne! I think that sounds like great advice!
I haven’t ever tried a paid tour, but I think I’d like to some day; the thought of not having to worry about the details of a trip does sound lovely. 🙂 On the other hand, I have enjoyed my DIY vacations lately because I love getting to spend as much time as I want taking photographs and checking out tasty eateries–I’m not sure I’m willing to give up the freedom that comes with DIY travel quite yet.
I agree with you, Tami. There should be a balance between experiencing some sites on your own and going with groups. I wouldn’t be comfortable being totally by myself in a foreign country. Being part of a group would make me feel a little safer, but I’d like to roam around on my own too.