Planning and organising your own trip can be brilliant, but also exhausting. That’s why it’s a real treat to let someone experienced handle all the details – the itinerary, the ground arrangements, the food and drink – leaving you to simply turn up, ready to enjoy the ride. Whether you’re travelling solo or going with friends and family, an organised group trip is a revelation for a lot of independent travellers. You’ll see and experience things you probably never would on your own, and since someone else has arranged almost every detail, it will probably be one of the most relaxing trips you’ll ever take.
It’s bonuses like these that make group trips so addictive for many people. That’s why we’ve launched TRIPS by Culture Trip, our own exciting selection of small-group travel adventures, each led by a local insider. And we understand that first-time group-trippers have worries, so let’s consider the most frequently voiced concerns, and put your mind at ease.
With rare exceptions, such as extreme adventures where it’s not safe to wander off alone (ie, remote hiking or travel in politically volatile destinations), you’ll find almost all group itineraries factor in ample free time so that guests can do what they like. You can check out that specialist museum, scope out the local shops for unique bargain souvenirs, or simply chill by the pool with a good book. And if that isn’t enough, let your trip host know that you want to skip some activities – even a full day. Invariably, it’s easy to arrange.
Worry not – most participants are on their best behaviour on group trips, and more often than not, you’ll gel with your co-travellers instantly. Of course there is the (occasional) possibility of coming across someone who rubs you up the wrong way – but this is no different to work, school or life, so think about how you’d tactfully extricate yourself from a conversation with someone who bothers you in those instances, then use the same tactic here. Claiming the need for a loo break mid-conversation often works, then on your return, discreetly make your way to the new friends you’d rather hang out with.
This being a group trip, of course you’ll need to be at certain places at set times, but that’s not the whole story. Yes, if the bus is waiting for you, then you need to get a move on to avoid keeping everyone else waiting, but once you’re at a stop on your itinerary, you’re often free to explore at your own pace. And if you’d like more time at a sight, simply let your local insider know, and in most cases you’ll be free to pick out the bits you want to see alone. It’ll likely be no problem for you to rejoin the group later, at your own pace.
Relax. If you’ve booked through TRIPS by Culture Trip, you’ll get an experience that’s been tailor-made to avoid this. Also, you’ll get the lowdown on the itinerary well before you depart for your holiday, so you’ll be able to check beforehand what things you might want to give a miss, without inconveniencing the rest of the group. En route, don’t be afraid to let your guide know that some sights on the trip aren’t for you. Then you can either freewheel it and make your own plans, or in many cases, your guide can suggest a nearby sight or activity you might enjoy more.
First, let’s flip that one on its head: not having to think about where to eat for every meal is one of the major advantages of group trips. After a sweaty day of exploring, it’s nice to know that your dinner plans have already been organised – a vetted restaurant is better than a fetid restaurant. Second, remember: none of that means you won’t get to experience the full array of local cuisines as part of the arrangement. And most group trips are only half-board, which means you’ll be free to sort your own meal at least once a day – typically lunch, but occasionally dinner. And you can always opt out of a group dinner and have a night at that charming little cafe you saw earlier in the day – remember it’s your holiday.
In the real world, this situation can be stressful. On a group trip, by contrast, you have a handy tool to resolve it: your tour guide. If someone is too clingy, have a quiet word with the guide – it’s essentially part of their job description to ensure you get to hang out with the people you like the most, while avoiding the one you like the least. Trip leaders are masters at this type of discreet rearrangement – so rest assured, nobody’s feelings will get hurt.
Even if you’re a solo participant, lunch arrangements and communal transport mean you’ll be chatting to new best friends as much as you like. One of the joys of a group trip is that almost everyone is open to meeting new buddies, more so than almost anywhere else in life. Put on your best smile and don’t shy away from the new people who try to connect with you, even if they seem wildly different from you at first glance. You’ve all chosen to go on this particular trip, so you already have something in common.
If you’re the kind of person who loves to chat to locals on your travels, then fear not. There will be ample opportunities to do this – especially if you book with TRIPS by Culture Trip. You’ll have time to explore on your own, and if you’re having drinks with your group, it’s usually easy enough to break away and chat to locals in a different part of the bar or cafe. Remember, too, that the people involved every step of the way – from the tour guide, to the hotel staff and the driver escorting you – will be local to the destination, so whatever insider information you might want, you can ask them. They’ll probably speak English, too.
Take the plunge and book a specially curated small-group adventure with TRIPS by Culture Trip.