01. MAKE CONTACT
Contact a company that offers group travel, pick the itinerary that suits the length of time you can spare and the price you are able and willing to pay. They will supply in-tour transportation, supply tour directors, hire local guides, and manage hotel reservations. Some companies will facilitate your visas, plane tickets, and travel insurance at no additional fee. All you have to do is arrive at the gathering point for the excursion. From that point on, you will be accompanied by an employee of the travel company who will coordinate all the details of your trip. If problems arise, he will be there to fix them.
02. FIGURE YOUR COSTS
Don't stop at the prix fixe cost. There are other additional costs to consider such as:
Optional excursions to local attractions
Tipping guides, bus drivers, airport porters, and your tour director
The cost of required country entry visas
Some companies we travel with have a no-tipping policy. All gratuities are paid to the local personnel by the tour director. The tip to the trip leader is usually not included.
All these extras can quickly add up - so read the fine print before you are satisfied that the entire package fits into your budget.
03. PROS OF ESCORTED TRAVEL
All decisions on "How to Go" are solved well in advance of the scheduled departure date and any problems arising "On the Go" will be handled by the tour director. This form of travel will free you from all the hassles of coordinating the bits and pieces of the itinerary and give you a traveling guru who will make sure all runs smoothly as possible as you proceed.
04. CONS OF ESCORTED TRAVEL
Regimentation: If you have a will-o-wisp personality that will struggle with getting up at the assigned hour, making the optional bus tour to the ceramics factory before your third cup of coffee, eating whatever's being served for lunch, or having to leave some perfectly delicious embroidery shop to stay on schedule to the next castle, shrine or cathedral, then you might want to try out a short trip of this kind for your first foray into escorted travel. Do check, however, to see if there will be free time available in any of the locations you might want to explore on your own. That is usually possible.
People: Yes, there will be other people going along - strangers that you may or may not like - from four to forty - or more. Tolerance is a virtue. And depending on the means of transportation and the complexity of the itinerary, the number scheduled to be enrolled may be just right - or not. If you're on a river cruise with 100 people and the daily on-shore excursions are led by a guide with only 10 to 12 travelers, that's acceptable. If you're on a tour with 40 other people on a tour bus, the ladies WCs will be very crowded at every rest stop. That can be a real hassle. Be aware of the headcount before you commit.
05. YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
Remember you are responsible for all the items in the section "Prepare to Go". Pay particular attention to the section on Visa and Passport Alerts to be sure you understand all that has to be accomplished before you set off for your adventure and make sure it is getting done in a timely manner - whether by yourself or others. If a visa doesn't get done on time or your passport will be out of date before you get home - your trip is over before it begins.
06. WHOM DO WE TRUST?
See Trusted Companies for a listing of companies and organizations with which we have traveled and found to be reliable.