For the sake of argument, we are going to compare road trips. Sure you can do both types of travel by flying to the destination, but for this blog I want to focus on Road Trips. Maybe I will do a separate blog article for flights.
Definitions of Group Travel and Solo TravelFirst, let’s define things a little bit. When I say group travel, most people think old people on a bus with name tags hanging around their necks that scream tourist. Although that is the case a lot of the time, it is not always true. There are companies that cater to the younger generation that don’t use name tags. So, group travel is a group of people who don’t normally know each other and who individually signed up to go on a tour to some destination that follows an itinerary.
Solo travel is pretty much that, you and your family jump in a car and travel together to a destination and follow a loose itinerary, if you have an itinerary at all. Usually you just know you want to do a bunch of stuff and get there and do it on your own time. Some people probably have a hard lined itinerary… I don’t want to travel with them.
Group Travel (Pros and Cons)
You don’t have to driveWhat is better than taking a nap when you want as you go down the road? You don’t have to worry about where to stop next, or getting lost.
No waiting in lines at attractionsHow many times have you had to wait in a long line, only to see about 40 people in a group jump in front of you? Wouldn’t you rather be in the group? Groups usually have all of the tickets needed well before the tour starts. This makes going to almost all attractions a lot more hassle free! It is awesome going into a packed restaurant and walking in with 40+ people to a private room just to go have dinner.
Tour ManagersHave a problem with your hotel room, dinner, or anything on the trip? Talk to the Tour Manager, and they will do everything in their power to fix it for you, within reason. Sorry, we are not marriage counselors. Tour Managers have the experience and connections to fix most problems while on a tour.
Make new friendsYou start a tour with a bunch of strangers, and end the tour with some great friends. We have made many friends over the years, and watched other friendships form while we head down the road. I personally have met many people who had gone on multiple trips with people they met on a tour.
EntertainmentThere is no getting bored with a group tour. A well trained Tour Manager will keep you from getting bored, without annoying you to death. Whether they play games, give prizes, or talk about the scenery, or a myriad of other topics, they are there to entertain you while on the trip.
Included MealsFrom breakfast at the hotel, to a posh meal at a nice restaurant. You will eat in places that you would normally not know about, or maybe not get into because they are so busy. Since it is included, you don’t have to worry about picking up the check at the end. You eat, have fun, and leave!
Easy Hotel Check inI bet you love to check into hotels. Imagine having someone come to you and hand you the key to your room. Some of the better companies even handle your bags for you! You go to your room, and your luggage shows up in less than an hour. It can’t be beat.
Only stop at scheduled stopsBeing with a group on a bus means that you are stopping at stops that are pre-determined. Luckily there is a restroom in the bus (which means it is a coach). You are on a schedule as to when you have to be places. Sometimes they are tight schedules. Keep in mind, it takes up to 5 minutes just for everyone to get off the coach. Another 5 minutes to get back on and ready to go. That is 10 minutes of getting on and off. 40 people in line for a small bathroom can throw an itinerary way off track.
No side tripsNo matter how bad you want to see the largest ball of twine, if there isn’t time in the itinerary for it, it isn’t happening. For the same reason as noted above. It takes too long to get on and off the coach. A stop that you can do in 5 minutes in your car can take up to 20-25 minutes on a coach. If you have a dinner reservation at a specific time, you can’t make that “quick” stop.
Specific allotted time at many locationsIt never fails. Some people want more time at a specific place, and others could care less if they even went to it. A Tour Operator has to figure out the sweet spot for an attraction, and hope for the best. Maybe you don’t care to see the Largest Ball of Twine, because you are on the tour to see the Boll Weevil monument. (yes, it exists, click here to see it). Once we get to the Boll Weevil Monument, you are mad that we only have 30 minutes. There is always some sort of compromise on a tour.
You can take your own carYou can pack as much or as little as you want! Bring a cooler with snacks, even use a garbage bag for luggage if you want! Having your own car with you gives you a lot of freedom.
Drive as much or as little as you wantWant to make it another 200 miles before you stop for the night? Go ahead! You are in charge.
Side TripsWant to see the Boll Weevil Monument? Ok, stay as long as you like.
Stay LongerYou are on the beach and want to stay another hour, go ahead, you are not on a schedule.
More FlexibleIt is a lot easier to change plans on a whim when you are just with your family. Assuming you are a family of about 5 people, and you are a parent. You can quickly decide something without it impacting the rest of your trip. If you are heading to someplace and find out there is a massive rainstorm, you can change your plans a lot easier than a group of 40. In fact, a group of 40 can’t change plans. I had a group going to the Smoky Mountain National Park, 2 days after the government shut down for a few weeks. What do you do? Luckily there is a bypass road to go and see the park from a scenic view point, and large vehicles can fit. There are times where a group just has to deal with it.
You have to pay for gasIt is your car, you have to pay for the gas. You also have to pay for the wear and tear. What if you get a flat tire? That is on you, too, unless you rented a car.
Hotel Check-inYou have to wait in line at the front desk. Most of the time it is ok and quick. What if you decided to drive further that night, and go to a location that is hard to find an open room? Then you have to keep looking until you find a room. My suggestion is use an app on your smart phone to find a room BEFORE you get somewhere. That will help!
Busy Restaurant – long waitBeen looking forward to eating at the Rock Center Cafe? Well, if you didn’t make reservations, you are in for a long wait!
You are on the hookIf anything goes wrong, you are on the hook. From extra expenses to time spent running around trying to fix whatever went wrong, it is all you, baby.
Missed OpportunitiesYou get home and find out that there was something awesome to visit while you were on vacation. Or, you just ran out of time going to places you didn’t plan on, and didn’t get to do something you wanted.
There is no right or wrongThere are good and bad about both methods of touring. I personally like to do both. There are times I would much rather be with a group, and others I want to be just with my family or friends. Sometimes I just want to go on my own!
No matter how you like to travel, there is only one thing that you really need to do, and that is get out there and travel! Get out and experience new places, new people, and new cultures. Go on an adventure! I hope to see you out on the road!
Thanks for reading my blog article. Please feel free to leave comments on the article.