Saturday, January 9, 2010

Something we have never done before: group travel

My husband and I have traveled a lot but always as individual travelers. We wanted our freedom. We didn’t want to deal with some group leader telling us we had to get up at 6:00 a.m. to catch the tour bus, we didn’t want to follow somebody else’s itinerary—no, that’s not what travel is about.

Also over the years, we’ve developed our style of traveling—spending a lot of time hanging out in cafes, doing less per day but really savoring each experience. I always felt so sorry for those tourists herded through museums with maybe a few minutes before each painting before being marched back to the tour bus. No, we would never travel like that. And in addition to being free to do what we like, part of the fun was trying to figure out how to get from place to place, to navigate the public transport systems.

But now we are in our 60’s and we decided that for certain destinations maybe we should consider a group. We don’t need a group for Europe, but for a trip to Peru it might make sense. We’ve always wanted to see Macchu Picchu and decided it’s now or never. For people our age, the altitude might be a challenge; having the support of a group in case of altitude sickness might have its advantages. And, making all the arrangements ourselves would be much more expensive than the economies of scale we could get with a group.

A tour agency which specializes in older travelers was highly recommended by some of our friends, so we decided to take the plunge and book their "Real Affordable Peru Trip.” When I first mentioned to my husband that this was a company specializing in senior travelers, he said, “I don’t want to travel with a bunch of geezers!” I reminded him that we too were geezers and perhaps he wouldn’t want to have to keep up with twenty year olds.

Another challenge: my husband, who is something of a polymath, has a tendency to correct the tour leaders. Sometimes we've taken group visits to museums—usually when the only way you could visit was in a group. Correcting the tour leaders’ pronunciation/ information in a two hour one-shot museum visit was one thing, but this could get a little dicey if we’re traveling with the same group for a couple of weeks. So let’s hope he can keep this impulse under control.

Anybody have any advice for two novices at group travel?


  1. Muzzle that man! Make a deal with him that he can keep a notebook of corrections that he carries with him on the tour, recording each one to share with you later (and with dinner guests or any captive audience back home once the tour is complete). Tell him you'll gladly listen to him recite the entries and expand on them at length whenever the two of you are alone, but under no circumstances is he to share them with the tour guides or other guests. If he blows it on the tour, promise him you'll turn to the tour guide and say, "I apologize for my husband. He has Tourettes and we try to ignore him when he does this."

    I've never been on a tour, but I can't wait to hear about yours!

  2. Nance, I’m not sure I’m up to taking your advice but I’m going to pass your comment on to my husband. He really is a sweetheart and doesn’t mean to be obnoxious, but sometimes…

  3. Karen,
    Like you and your husband, my husband and I strongly prefer to plan and travel by ourselves rather than with a tour group. Nonetheless, when we went to Peru five years ago, we did go on a tour, mostly because we decided to go to Peru at the last minute. The experience didn't convert us into tour takers, but there certainly were some things we enjoyed. Having someone else worry about getting our luggage from place to place, for example. Getting to see some places that were not open to individuals, just to groups. Staying at some really lovely, unusual hotels that we probably wouldn't have chosen because they were too expensive--they were affordable as part of the tour. And while we didn't wind up making any long-term friendships as a result of the tour, it could happen.

    Anyway, Peru is a beautiful and fascinating country, and we had a wonderful time. I'm sure you will, too. ¡Disfruta bien!

  4. Juanita, thanks for your perspective on group tours. I hope this works out. We’ll never go on a group tour to Europe, but there are places you can’t easily go to as an individual traveler. So if we can handle groups, it opens up possibilities.