guided boat tour
Regardless of the reason you’ve decided to book a tour, it’s important to keep a number of things in mind to get the most out of it, and to ensure a positive overall experience.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / kschulze

How to Get the Most out of a Guided Tour

Turn Every Tour into a Worthwhile Experience

Taking travel tours can be a great way to explore a new destination, particularly when you don’t have a lot of time to research and plan out your entire itinerary, or if you want to visit a place that can’t be experienced independently. If all goes well, you’ll leave with fantastic memories and have reaped all the benefits of traveling while being half as stressed.

Regardless of the reason you’ve decided to book a tour, it’s important to keep a number of things in mind to get the most out of it, and to ensure a positive overall experience.

Choose a Tour That Caters to Your Particular Vacation Style

Doing a little bit of homework before booking a tour is essential. Think about the type of vacation experience you’re looking for. Are you the adventurous type that likes to spend your time taking part in heart-pounding activities? You probably won’t be happy with the standard tour that draws lots of couch potato-types.

Instead, look for a tour operator that caters to your abilities, with itineraries filled with activities that will keep you moving and prevent boredom.

Think about your travel style as well. Do you generally look for an upscale experience with high-end hotels and gourmet meals? You’ll want a high-end tour operator that knows how to put together a luxury experience.

Perhaps you want to enjoy the benefit of an expert guide, but you want to have some time to spend independently, mingling with the locals or just wandering through the streets on your own soaking up the sights. If so, look for a tour that offers both scheduled activities and plenty of time to enjoy on your own.

Consider the Type and Number of People That Go on the Tour

You’ll be spending a lot of time with other people on the tour, so it’s important to find out who you’ll be close to for so many hours of the day, for days on end, or whatever the case may be. Some tours cater to an older crowd, while others focus on younger groups and others tend to attract a mix of both.

If you’d prefer a more intimate experience where you won’t be just a number, find out how many people usually go on the particular tour, as well as how crowded the vehicle will be.

Research Your Destination

Before booking, take time to research which particular sights and attractions you’d like to see, and determine which tours will include your favorites. Don’t assume that just because you’re touring Athens, for example, that your tour will include a visit to the Acropolis.

You should also perform research on specific places you’ll be visiting, by perusing the internet, reading a guidebook, asking friends, etc. That way you’ll be better prepared to ask informed questions, as well as being able to go off-itinerary when the opportunity arises.

You may also want to check out area restaurants, bars and cafes you can explore near your accommodations.

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Prepare Questions

As you research, consider how you can leverage your tour guide as a resource to help you find out as much as you can about your destination. Prepare questions and write them down in a notebook you can bring in case you forget.

This will not only provide you with a better understanding of the local history and context, but it’s also a great way to interact with your guide and the group, breaking up any monotony that can occur when the guide’s explanation begins to sound a little robotic.

Asking questions can completely change the energy of the tour, and often brings up interesting stories that can make for memories of a lifetime.

For example, say you’ll be going on a whale watching excursion — you might want to find out more about the creatures and their behaviors. By asking questions related to the animals, it will not only enhance your experience, but the guide is likely to get excited when talking to more interested participants.

Build Rapport with Your Guide

In addition to asking your guide questions related to the places you’ll be visiting, get to know them, and build rapport. If your guide is local, you might gain a new friend at that destination, or at a minimum get recommendations to visit after your tour or during free time that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

With just about everyone on Facebook these days, including tour guides, you might even want to ask them if they have a Facebook page. Many guides really appreciate tour participants who engage with them after it’s all said and done, and it’s a fantastic way to get the most out of the experience.

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