What I Wish I Knew Before I Booked a Package Tour
Take this quiz and find out if a package tour is right for you
I took a Rick Steves tour of Venice, Florence and Rome. I had already been to all three cities on my own.
Why take a package tour of cities I have already experienced?
I was travelling with 3 other women. A package tour removed all the stress of trying to agree and compromise on where we would go and what we would do.
Was there a benefit to a package tour?
- I did new things I would not have done on my own that were fabulous.
- I experienced familiar sites in new ways
If you are thinking about booking a package tour, this quiz will help you decide if a package tour is right for you.
Do you like to plan your own itinerary?
For some travellers, their trip begins at home. Planning the trip is as fun as taking the trip.
For others, booking hotels, restaurants, transport and sights is stressful.
Here are some of the decisions that are made for you in a package tour:
- Which cities to visit
- How long to stay in each city
- Which hotel to book
- How to get to the next destination
- Where to eat
- What to see; when to see it; and how long to see it
Do you have a lot of energy?
On paper, it seemed like we would have lots of free time to explore on our own. In reality, the schedule was packed. Morning tours ended in early afternoon, leaving just a few hours to ourselves before meeting up for a group dinner. I used that precious time to see sights that were not on our itinerary. Others needed the time to rest and relax.
Do you like to see the sights at your own pace or do you like to have a guide?
An excellent guide can make all the difference in how you experience a sight.
Our guide for the trip was endlessly patient with every question. He helped people plan their itineraries after the tour was over. He helped me plan how to get to the sights I wanted to explore on my own.
We also had local guides in each city. They were deeply knowledgeable and wanted to share their passion with us. I liked some better than others, but none could be faulted for lack of passion or knowledge.
One guide spoke too much and too fast. I started to lose interest. Just then, a fire truck went by. Well, this was in Venice, so it was actually a fire boat. I had much more fun taking pictures of the firemen.
Why do all firemen look like they belong in a pinup calendar?
One guide took us to the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. She was absolutely excellent at explaining the significance of important works.
We stopped in front of a painting that I would have ignored if I were on my own. I am so very glad that she was there to tell us why this work was important.
The work is La Tempesta, a Renaissance painting by the Italian master, Giorgione, done in early 1500. She explained that this painting revolutionized the art world. In that era, art was based on religion or mythology. It did not depict ordinary people doing ordinary things.
La Tempesta shows real time, not divine time or heavenly time. The painting captures a moment in time. We don’t know what just happened or what or is about to happen.
La Tempesta demonstrated that art can change your outlook and perspective.
Do you like to visit museums and sights when you want or on a schedule?
With a tour, you go to the front of the line.
All entrance tickets were included in the tour price. Tours have separate entrances and pre-arranged tour times.
We had no wait time to get into even the most popular sights.
Some people on our tour were not interested in museums. You don’t have to do everything. It is OK to take a pass on something that does not interest you.
Do you have a good sense of time?
Our guide did not wait for latecomers. We had a schedule and we did not deviate. Don’t be late!
Are you game to try something new or different?
Our tour stopped for a vineyard tour. I would not have done this on my own. There are lots of wineries in Ontario with lovely tours.
It was a surprisingly wonderful tour of the estate, complete with private chapel and ancient underground wine cellars.
We tried lots of fabulous wines, paired with great Italian foods.
The added bonus was that we all slept on the bus for the remainder of the drive to our next destination.
Do you like to pay once or pay as you go?
You pay for the tour up front and in full. You avoid the post-trip hangover when the bills come in.
If you pay as you go, you need to calculate the cost with a different currency, taxes and the exchange rate. Math is always on your mind.
Our tour included breakfasts, some lunches and half the dinners. Everything else, including tips, was included in the tour price. Once you get over the sticker shock, you don’t need to follow the money.
Our itinerary was so packed, we had no time for shopping. The result? We spent very little money during the tour.
Can you pack lite?
We were responsible for our own bags, on and off the bus; up and down stairs in some hotels. If you can’t carry it, leave it home.
Forget fancy; dress for comfort.
Are you friendly?
You will be on a tour with people you don’t know. However, you will find that you have lots in common. You picked the same tour to the same places at the same time. Surely you can find something to talk about!
You might make a new BFF.
Are you curious?
It is easy to become passive on a tour. Just put on your headphones and do what you are told. A few times, we were so tired that we did not have the energy to look around at the magnificent sights in front of our eyes.
Ask questions; add comments; make a few jokes. As with most things in life, the trip may not be the experience you expected but turns out to be a great experience.
Have you taken a package tour?
What did you like about it? What did you hate about it? Would you take one again?
Please share your comments in the comments section. Your fellow travellers will appreciate it!
Next Week: Celebrate Summer in Canada
Take a trip to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia
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