Types of Tours

Decide Which Type of Tour is Best for You

Cycling Tour on the Isar Cycle Route, Bavaria
Konrad Wothe / LOOK-foto / Getty Images

Whether you want to have afternoon tea in London, ride on a dogsled or visit Antarctica, a tour can take you to your dream destination.

Here are some types of tours to consider.

Escorted / Guided Tours

On an escorted tour, your tour operator plans the itinerary and provides a guide who takes you to each sightseeing destination and tells you something about what you are seeing. On most escorted tours, the group travels and eats together. The tour price usually includes most expenses, but you may be asked to pay for certain items, such as souvenirs, alcoholic beverages, side trips (such as a round of golf) and meals eaten during free afternoons or evenings.

Self-Guided / Independent Tours

An independent tour offers the convenience of pre-planned travel and the freedom to experience a new place your way. Tour prices usually include transportation and lodging, which your tour operator will arrange for you. You will be in charge of deciding what to do each day. Additional expenses, such as meals and admission fees, may or may not be included in the tour price. Be sure you understand which costs are included before you book your tour.

Adventure Tours

If you’re looking for an active vacation, an adventure tour might be right for you. Adventure tours usually include hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing and other strenuous activities. Most adventure tour prices include lodging and meals, but you may pay extra for some excursions. Your tour price may or may not include transportation. (Tip: You will need to buy special travel insurance that includes coverage for adventure sports if you are traveling to a place where your own medical insurance does not cover you.)

Special Interest Tours

Special interest tours are becoming more and more popular. This type of tour is built around a theme, such as golf, cooking or knitting. You’ll get to experience a new city or country while doing activities you truly enjoy. Some special interest tours offer learning experiences, while others cater to specific groups of people, such as grandparents traveling with grandchildren or solo travelers.

Transportation Options

Walking Tours. To see your destination in great detail, try a walking tour. You can find escorted and self-guided walking tours on every continent. Your tour will probably involve a morning walk with sightseeing stops, lunch, a longer afternoon walk and dinner. Some tour operators suggest you begin to get in shape at least three months before your tour.

Bus and Motorcoach Tours. If walking long distances isn’t your style, consider a bus tour. You won’t have to brave Manhattan at rush hour or find a parking lot in Paris, and you’ll get to your destination in relative comfort. Some bus tours are day trips,while other tours can last up to three weeks. Expect to change seats every day if you’re on a longer tour; many bus tour operators assign different seats to tour participants each day to encourage socializing. Some bus tours can be strenuous, either because of the amount of walking at each sightseeing stop or because of the amount of time spent sitting in a moving bus.

Train Tours. For a glimpse of a bygone era, take a train tour. You’ll eat and sleep on the train and stop at various train stations for short sightseeing excursions. Some train tours follow historic routes, such as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Others take you where no roads exist. Trains are very narrow inside, which makes them inaccessible to many disabled travelers. Amtrak trains in the United States, however, comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, making them a better alternative for travelers with mobility issues.

Amtrak trains offer private compartments with showers as an accommodation alternative, but trains in other countries may lack shower facilities.

Bicycling / Hiking / Horseback Riding Tours. Enjoy the pleasure of a day spent in the open air and the convenience of a tour. You can meet the whole group for dinner, and you won’t have to carry a heavy backpack all day long. Of course, you’ll have to plan for changing weather conditions. As with a walking tour, you should start getting in shape for your tour at least three months before your departure date.