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. Your tour operator also provides a guide (your tour director) who accompanies you to each sightseeing destination, coordinates with local tour guides, tells you something about what you are seeing as you travel and offers tips for what to do on free days or afternoons. 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, both of 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 are 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 a film (think The Sound of Music), 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.

Walking Tours

To see your destination on an in-depth level, try a walking tour. You can find escorted and self-guided walking tours on every continent, although an Antarctica walking tour must be combined with an ocean voyage. Walking tours are usually rated by level of difficulty, which involves not only distance, but also terrain and changes in elevation. Your tour will probably involve a morning walk with sightseeing stops, lunch, a longer afternoon walk and dinner. Tip: Many travel experts and tour operators suggest you begin to get in shape at least three months before your tour.

Bus and Motorcoach Tours

If walking long distances does not match your style, consider a bus tour. You will not have to brave Manhattan at rush hour or find a parking lot in Paris, and you will 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 are 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. Discuss your mobility issues with your tour operator before you make a deposit on a bus tour.

Train Tours

For a glimpse of a bygone era, take a train tour. You wll 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 travelers with disabilities. 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 will have to plan for changing weather conditions. As with a walking tour, you should start getting in shape for your cycling, hiking, or horseback riding tour at least three months before your departure date.

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