When Do I Take a Tour? - Including Local and Longer Tours

When should I take a tour? Or should I just walk around a city with a guidebook and see the sights?

Good question.

I take short tours all the time. Usually they are very short and focused.

    An art tour in August's Forum in Rome, Italy.

  • For instance, I take tours in museums, with expert guides such as an art professor from the Louvre in Paris that speaks English.

  • There are city tours, where you can jump on and off a bus route that tours a city. Most of the time I usually just take regular public transportation and take my guidebook.

  • I usually don't take organized city tours. I find that I can't stop when I want to. It really disrupts the tour for me. I can tolerate it for a few hours, but I feel I can't take a tour for the whole day (let alone for a week or weeks.)

  • I rent or obtain inexpensive audio tours that use the iPhone or specialized audio equipment.

  • Sometimes I cheat and join other tours in progress and listen to the guide descriptions and explanations. Sometime it's tolerated, sometimes not.

    A sightseeing boat in Amsterdam.
  • Better yet, take a boat tour on the canals of Amsterdam, the Thames River in London or among the hundreds of island in the city of Stockholm, Sweden.

  • In some of the amusement parks, I can take a tour to the back lots. This can be very interesting. In Sea World I stood a few inches from a recuperating Beluga Whale that was sticking its head out four feet in the air with no effort.

  • I love behind the scenes tours or feeding times in zoos, which are great opportunities to get up close.

  • I love factory tours especially to breweries and food factories.

    A hard rock mining tour in the middle of Belgium.
  • I take a tour of a gold mine in California and a coal mine tour in Wales. Great fun.

  • Walking tours are available in almost every city. I check guidebooks and city websites.

  • A friend happened to work in the Sears Tower, now Willis Tower, in Chicago. I got a free tour of the workings of that place. Incredible,

  • When traveling, ask friends and hosts if they know of tours.

  • I take tours of my friends' workplaces.

  • My Dutch friend's father gave me the tour of Aalsmeer Flower Auction, the largest in the world.

  • I take tours of sports facilities, like Lord's Cricket Stadium in London or Miller Baseball Field in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

  • I take horse treks in Chile near a volcano and mule trips in the Grand Canyon.

  • There are lots of tours to choose from.

I keep my ears open and ask lots of questions, including “Are there any great tours nearby.”

What about longer tours of a country or region? These can include guides, lodging and meals.

I usually skip these. Being herded and squeezed into churches, museums and dining rooms is not my kind of trip. I can do better than this. Much better.

My high school tour on an Amsterdam sightseeing boat.  I'm standing in the back.

In my entire life, I took only long two tours.

  • The first one, I went on in high school with my German teacher.

  • The second bus tour was of the National Parks in Szechwan, China, many, many years later.

In both cases, I couldn't travel alone.

  • The first tour I took was because I was too young.

  • The second tour I went on in China because I was injured (torn knee ligaments) and couldn't trust the local transportation system in the Tibetan highlands in October.

That's the secret, if you can't travel alone or with a friend, then take a tour. It's simple as that.

I have not taken many longer bus tours, so I recommend going to Rick Steves' Bus Tour Self-Defense.

Here are some of the highlights:

When calling tour companies, remember this:

  • Nail down the price. What do you get? Meals? Get all the details.

  • Find out how much the guide guides. Are they really that qualified?

  • Find out the details about the trip. How many people? Are members young, old, single, children? What about bathrooms, smoking, stops, meal times, free time, air conditioning?

  • How established is the company? Years in business? Number of tours? Refund policies.

  • Find out the itinerary and location of hotels. Get written tour evaluations. Check websites.

  • How to Enjoy a Bus Tour: Be nice to the guide. They do work very hard.

  • Discriminate among optional excursions and other promotions.

  • Be informed. Use a guidebook. Get maps and tourist information from your (or another) hotel desk or a tourist information office.

  • If you shop...shop around. Some guides are really just salesmen.

  • Spend time with locals who never deal with tourists. This is the best advice.

Again, go to Rick Steves' Bus Tour Self-Defense for details. He's great at this type of information.

Here is a quick list of More Travel Secrets:

Go to the Page on My Way to Travel

Fun Travel

Family Travel

Senior Travel

Short Breaks

When Do I Take a Tour?

Take a Tour without a Tour

Medical Tourism

Here is a quick list of Different Kinds Of Travel:

Different Kinds Of Travel

Losing Weight Travel

Relaxing Travel

Soothing Travel

One Road Travel

Wild Travel