Over the past few years, I get a lot of questions on whether I prefer package tours over DIY traveling. It’s a difficult question to answer, because the answer is always a case to case basis.
Though most of the traveling I share on my blog are independent traveling, my first overseas travel was actually one organized by my parents when I was just 17 years old. Everything was arranged by a travel agency, and my sister and I just had to join tour groups to make sure we wouldn’t get lost in Hong Kong. It was convenient, and for a minor, it was the safest mode of touring.
Since I started organizing my own trip, booking my own flights, and making my own hotel reservations, I enjoyed planning my travels so much that I usually plan everything myself without joining any tours.
But still, I am always careful when answering this question because there are different types of travelers. There are no ideal traveler and no wrong way to travel. There’s just finding what suits your needs and wants as a tourist, or a traveler, if you’d prefer being referred to that way.
So, what really is it? What’s the better way to travel?
Consider getting a package tour
If you’re traveling with your parents and kids.
It’s hard to move around in large groups, especially if some members of your group aren’t into walking. If you’re with your parents or grandparents, joining a tour, private or not, is the best way to ensure that they will enjoy it. Kids have all the energy to explore a city, but if you don’t want any of your younger cousins missing by the end of Day 2, maybe joining a tour is necessary.
If it can make traveling more convenient for you.
It’s understandable if you want your travels to be as comfortable as possible and that can only be achieved through booking the best hotels and choosing package tours over independent travel. When visiting local areas, you’ll probably find it difficult to commute due to the numerous jeepney and tricycle transfers. It’s definitely more convenient if everything has already been laid out instead of worrying how to get from point A to point B once you get there.
Just imagine ignoring all the packages you can easily book beforehand and instead, opting to book a hotel yourself, arranging for the transportation, plotting the itinerary, and only looking for island hopping tours once you get there. You might end up spending more than necessary, not just on money but on time, too. Be it in Puerto Princesa, Coron, or El Nido, there are tons of Palawan packages to choose from, and it’s only up to you to choose one that best suits you.
If it’s cheaper to join a group tour than doing your itinerary.
There are times when the price of a group tour is overwhelming, but when you compute for your overall budget, you’ll be surprised how it can still be cheaper. Groups and agencies organizing tours often get discounts that’s why they can still offer affordable travel packages.
If you want to see more attractions at a shorter period of time.
One of the complaints about package tours is how it tries to fit in too many attractions in a day. But if you’re visiting a place for the first time without knowing when you’ll be back, it’s only understandable that you want see as many sights as you possibly can. Package tours make sure that the best spots are covered. It also follows a schedule so you can visit everything before sunset. I definitely didn’t regret joining a group tour when I went to Baler, because it allowed my friends and I to save more and see everything.
If you’re traveling solo.
I haven’t tried traveling solo, and I plan to. The thought alone is scary, but joining organized tours make it less so since I’ll be joining other travelers and the trip will be organized by experienced folks. Besides, traveling becomes less expensive if you split the bill with someone, but you won’t have anyone when you travel alone. Joining tours can help you cut down the cost.
Some would argue that package tours are not flexible. However, some travel agencies actually allow you to customize the travel package. Also, I believe most package tours allow free time, especially at night, so you can still squeeze in whatever you want to do that the package cannot cover.
Go for independent travel
If you care more about the journey than the destination.
When DIY traveling, you’ll spend a lot of time figuring out how to get from one place to another. You’ll also need to strictly follow bus schedules and arrange for a private transportation when a public one isn’t possible wherever you’re going. There’s a chance that you’ll spend more time on the road, asking for directions and looking at the map, than on the actual destination itself. But if you do not mind getting lost and you enjoy the thrill of finding what you’re looking for, then DIY travel might really be for you.
If you don’t care for touristy places.
Most package tours focus on the most popular attractions of a place, but if you’d rather visit hole-in-the-wall restaurants or obscure galleries, then you can try creating your own itinerary. The top attractions are at the top for a reason, and I try to visit those that really peak my interest. But there are times when my priority isn’t included in the list of most recommended spots and joining a package tour would only make me miss out on what I’d rather do.
If you want to spend more time at a certain place.
Independent traveling allows you to focus your time on the places you want to visit the most. Want to spend an entire afternoon just sitting at an outdoor cafe and soaking in the culture? Want to waste an entire day just walking around with no specific place in mind and not restricted by time? Then that’s possible, too. DIY travels allow you more freedom to whatever you want, even hunting down filming locations of your favorite dramas and movies, which I often do.
If you don’t like traveling in groups.
Private travel tours can be pretty pricey, and majority of the travel packages lump you in with other tourists. You’ll be traveling in groups anywhere you go, and if this doesn’t fly with you, then it’s best to skip package tours.
If you enjoy planning everything yourself.
Organizing your own travel can be stressful and frustrating, especially when you cannot find everything you need online. However, it also has its own perks. I personally enjoy it, and I also like sharing the travel itineraries in the blog. However, I have to admit that it can be pretty challenging if you do it locally, due to the scarcity of information sometimes. But there are tons of guides you can find online, and there are also other travelers and bloggers willing to help you.
Independent traveling can be stressful, especially when you have to do everything by yourself. But it’s exciting and you have more liberty to do the things you actually want.
It all depends on what you want to accomplish when you travel. Be it DIY traveling or joining group tours, traveling always has something in store for you that no itinerary can ever cover. Before traveling, weigh your options first, study your expenses, and consider the people you’re traveling with. All of these matter when you plan your travels.
I hope this post helped you decide whether to approach a travel agency or plan your trip yourself.