Joe's experience of a lot of little extra expenses adding up during the course of the tour is an exact description of every package tour I've ever joined. They always tell you that everything is included up front, but it never is. There is always something else that needs a tip, a fee, or whatever. And that is not to mention the hours wasted at little shops here and there that have some deal with the travel agency. It ends up feeling, to me, like I've been cheated on my travels.
When I travel, I always book tickets only, or at absolute most tickets and hotel, from the agent. Everything else, I find on my own. If it is not a country I feel comfortable driving, I find out about public transportation. It is usually not too hard to get around, whether by driving or public transport. At worst, a bit of a walk never hurts.
But the high fees involved in package tours, and the limit on one's freedom (wake up at 6, be on the bus at a certain time, okay... now you've got 20 minutes to see the Great Wall... hurry! We've got to get to the shops before they close!!!) is all just too much for me.
There are a very few circumstances where I see a package tour being worthwhile, but otherwise I avoid them. It always makes the adventure more fun when it is something you've done yourself, start to finish.
Read Colin Fletcher's The Man Who Walked Through Time and join us for the book club discussion in mid-February
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