How do you usually travel? Do you make the itinerary yourself or take package tours?
I have been asked this several times, and I guess it’s time for me to take a stand.
Actually, the debate on the value of DIY vs organized travel has been going on for some time. Some DIY travelers look down on people who go with tour groups (yup, I know some of them!), seeing themselves as the “real” travelers while the others are not.
In the meantime, people who book tours also think of DIY travelers as people who can’t afford to go on a package trip. Which of them is right?
Neither group is right.
While dichotomous thinking is common, it’s not necessarily good. Why do we have to label travelers (or anyone else, for that matter) as black or white? In the type of people who travel, there are a lot of gray areas.
Take myself, for instance. I usually make my itinerary on my own (if I can be bothered to make one). I find the cheapest way to go places, do my research on the things I can see there, and then just go visit one at a time, depending on my mood.
My primary reason for taking a packaged tour is actually the cost. There are countries where it is more expensive (or inconvenient) to go on your own rather than join a tour.
After all, you have to arrange the transportation yourself, buy a map or a guide, and then make all the arrangements yourself, increasing the chances of experiencing unwelcome surprises along the way (e.g., missed train connections).
When I went to Vietnam, for example, I could have easily done a DIY tour of the Cu Chi tunnel and the other attractions outside Ho Chi Minh City. However, when I computed all expenses, I found out that joining a tour group is so much easier and cheaper, as you split the van rental with the other travelers.
It doesn’t mean, as well, that you can’t be an independent traveler once you book a tour. You can partner up with others, for example, just to reduce the costs of an airline ticket.
The NY Times has listed several websites that offer tours to independent travelers. It lists several cruise options too, including one on rock cruises which are perfect for the music lovers!
So the next time someone asks you which you think is better, DIY travel or package tours, you already know what to say!