There are many ways to travel - couch surfing, work and travel, joining guided tours, family stay or just going the free-and-easy way. However, for this post, I will be concentrating on just guided tours versus free-and-easy styled tours.
My husband and I have done both types of travelling for our various travels and both of us preferred the free-and-easy style of travelling. This type of travel allowed us to have the freedom to choose the places that we would want to explore and the flexibility to alter the itinerary according to our own pace and needs. We would also have more time to interact with the locals while travelling and this is definitely one of the main perks of going free-and-easy. However, free-and-easy travel is definitely not the easiest type of travel as there is a need for the traveler to do a lot of research on the place of interest - i.e. find out about the mode of transport, the currency used, locate good restaurants, entrance fee and operating hours of tourist attraction sites, the dos and don’ts of the region and many more. Despite the hassle, the need to do some research on the places we are travelling to allows us to have a more in-depth knowledge of the culture and history of the said place - which is why this is our preferred mode of travelling!
Guided tours are not without its perks. For one, the responsibility of coordinating and following the planned itinerary would rest on an experience guide who should be very familiar with the travel destinations - and travelers would just have to relax and enjoy the trip. However, for us, very often we feel that guided tours tend to be a very rushed trip due to two main reasons - (1) the travel company would try to pack in as many places to visit as possible in order to make the trip more worthwhile and (2) there is a need to follow the strict planned itinerary so as to covered all the places within the given time frame of the trip. This often resulted in travelers having only a very short duration to explore the main tourist attractions sites in each destination before heading to the next destination. Weird as it may seem, even though on guided tours, where our guide will provide us with relevant historic information on the places that we are visiting, this touch-and-go approach of sightseeing often leaves us with a touch of uncertainty as to whether we have really experienced what all these places have to offer. Throughout the whole trip, there are also minimal interactions with the locals as most of the time, we would be hanging out with our tour mates, guide and driver. This is also why my husband and I, being firm believers that interaction with the locals is a must to truly understand the culture and lifestyle of a place, still prefer the free-and-easy style of travelling.
Of course, there were also instances during our travel that we did a combination of these two types of travels. You might be wondering why would we want to choose to incorporate guided tours in our travel plans when we have a stronger preference for the free-and-easy approach? The reason boils down to two main constraints - time constraints and transportation constraints. Many of these guided tours that we opted for were guided day trips out of the city we were in as there is a limit to where the public transport could take us to and these guided tours eliminates our transportation constraints! The best example of how a guided tour has helped us tide over both time and transportation constraints would be our trip to Iceland where my husband and I decided to go for a 3 days Golden Circle guided tour + 2 days of free-and-easy travelling at Reykjavik (capital of Iceland). As we could only afford to spend 5 days in Iceland, there was a time constraint to cover all the beautiful Icelandic sights in such a short period of time and we were not confident of being able to achieve it on our own. Furthermore, we were not familiar with the Icelandic terrains nor were we confident of driving during the winter conditions then, thus transportation to the various beautiful sights on our own was near impossible. Hence, this combination allowed us to explore the fascinating and gorgeous landscapes of Iceland safely and timely while still having the flexibility of exploring Reykjavik city at our own pace. It was definitely one of the more memorable and fun trips that we have had thus far!
Well, while free-and-easy style of travelling might be the best option for us, there are also many other travelling styles and the important thing is to choose the style that best suit your needs!
So, what is your preferred travelling style and why? Feel free to share with us in the comment section below! :)