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Ask an Advisor: The Truth About Guided Travel

guided travel

If guided travel tours make you think of long bus rides and crowded groups shuffling from one tourist attraction to the next, it’s time to update your perspective.

AAA Travel advisor Wendy Marley answers our questions about guided travel, separating old truths from new realities and proving that today’s tours are better than ever.

For all your travel questions and trip-planning needs, schedule an appointment with one of our trusted travel advisors.

How has guided travel evolved?

A lot has changed in the last 10 or so years. Guided tours used to be strictly scheduled and focused on ticketed sites, but now there’s more flexibility, as well as more time to be immersed in the local culture and getting to know the destination and the people. You can go off the beaten path for unique experiences and visit the top spots, too. There are also more options than ever, including different group sizes, themed tours and many budget ranges.

What are some of the most common myths about guided travel?

There are so many guided travel myths to dispel. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you’ll be on a coach bus all day. Tour operators are exploring places in new ways now, so there’s less time on a bus and more time at your destination. There are also different modes of transportation, from dog sleds and trains, to tuk tuks (motorized rickshaws), trolleys and jeeps. And you’re not just staying in hotels anymore, either – there’s igloos, treehouses, manors, castles and chateaus!

Another myth is that it is more expensive to go with a guide, and that is simply not true; there are plenty of examples where the all-inclusive pricing of a tour is much less expensive than piecing together an itinerary and adding meals. Not to mention the added value a guide brings, or the time travelers save.

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What are some other perks of guided travel?

Traveling with a guide makes all the difference; they provide background on the destination and heaps of information you wouldn’t receive traveling alone, such as local knowledge and tips on the best places to shop and eat.

It’s all about the storytelling. Your guide is going to share stories with you that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. Those stories are what you will remember and bring back to share with others. It isn’t only about getting the best picture!

Another perk of booking a tour is having all the details of your trip done for you in advance, so you know you will have reliable accommodations and transportation and a day-to-day outlined itinerary. There are also opportunities for free time and customizing your trip with additional excursions and pre- and post-trip city stays.

The amount of time – and stress – saved by not having to plan or figure out how to get around, and skipping the line for museum entrances and planned activities is endless. You can relax with your family and friends instead of worrying about logistics.

guided tours through europe

What are all the ways AAA members can go guided?

It is important to think about what is important to you. What do you want to see and how do you want to see it? There’s a guided tour for every age, interest and budget. You can explore options for various group sizes, food tours, photography tours, themes for families, active traveler itineraries and more.

Our preferred tour partner AAA Member Choice Vacations®, offers bucket list trips to all continents with great accommodations and optional add-ons. AAA’s own tour operator Club Adventures specializes in small group opportunities (no more than 16 people) and even has solo traveler options.

Looking for something more high-end? Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold are the 4- and 5-star answers, providing amazing hotel stays, upgraded transport and additional inclusions.

And if you have your sights set on Ireland, Brendan Vacations will lead your Celtic journeys.

What are a few places you think are best experienced by guided tour?

Really anywhere, but especially any place you haven’t been before and want to immerse yourself in the local culture. This is especially true if it’s a destination where the language or culture is different from your own, or getting around is difficult (like driving on the other side of the road in the U.K.!).

Ireland is one of my favorite tour destinations, with castle stays and beautiful scenery along the drives. Italy is another example where you can experience so much more in a short amount of time with a guided tour, from Cinque Terre to the Amalfi Coast.

Exotic destinations like Morocco are a personal favorite, where I got to ride a camel in the desert and shop for textiles in the winding medinas of Marrakech.

The last trip I did was to Iceland with Member Choice Vacations, and I was so glad to be on a guided trip, especially when visiting some of the more remote areas like glaciers and lava fields. Our guide knew where to stop for food and breaks when there wasn’t a gas station in sight!  

Trending destinations right now are the three I’s – Italy, Iceland and Ireland. Greece has also been very popular, as well as Spain, Portugal and Croatia.

And don’t forget, going guided is not only about traveling to Europe or internationally. There are amazing, guided experiences right here in North America, such as national parks, Hawaii, the California Coast and the Rocky Mountains.

Interested in booking your next guided vacation? Go guided with AAA.

Have a question for our travel advisors? Ask away!

How do you feel about guided travel? Would you consider a tour for your next vacation? Tell us in the comments.

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