My first trip abroad was a business trip to Paris and was fully organised by the company. The trip was short and most of the time was “booked” with some training and meetings. I had very short time for sightseeing. At that time (that was in 2009) I was kind of a tourist for a few hours and was hurry to see all the highlights of this city, such as Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Notre Damme de Paris, etc. I didn’t plan anything in advance as first of all I didn’t know how much time will I have for that, and then – didn’t know how to do that (just didn’t look for that). So what I was doing (together with a colleague)? Once we knew we had 1-2 hours, we were checking which places can we “cover” and were running in the streets. As a result we could see very quickly most of the famous places, took funny (usually out of focus) pictures and had a lot of fun. And this was when I felt that time is not enough for a stay. After that I had chances to return to Paris another 3 times (again as a business trip and for vacation), but still have a lot to see there.
Except my business trips, all the rest of my trips I planned and organized myself and never regretted for that. Every time I was more sure that I won, because I was the owner of my time and my path.
In general, there are two type of people – tourists and travelers. Some of us prefer to take tours from tour agencies, the others make everything themselves. But which one is better? Let’s see all cons and pros of both options.
What tour agencies will give you?
Everything will be planned for you in advance: you don’t have to think about where to go and when.
You will stay in a hotel, most probably in a city center, but for sure that won’t be a 5* hotel (unless you are ready to pay more and informed the agency about your preferences in advance.
You will see all highlights of the city, as usually those kind of travel agencies show tourists most of the famous places (e.g. ask Google to show you top places of X place, those will be included in your trip).
If you’re OK with above – fine! But you will also be limited in your choices. Usually the dates are fixed for group tours and you can’t chose to stay even a day more than others.
You will depend on the group as most of your time is planned with them. If you want to see more than your guide showed to you (and your group), you’ll have to use your few hours free time to go back to the places you’ve already been and check nearby corners (double waste of time, no?).
If you don’t like the hotel or location, you cannot change it anymore, as the agency already made a payment for whole group in advance.
So if you still prefer to have everything prepared for you by travel agencies, make sure to check all the details in advance, so you won’t have any bad surprises after you arrive. But you still can organize everything yourself and meet all your expectations during your trip.
You are the boss of your trip!
First of all, you are flexible to choose your travel dates by season and duration.
You can choose where to stay – in a city center, most probably with quite expensive rates or a bit far from downtown with cheaper rates, but with easy access to the most of the places you want to visit during your stay (close to Metro or Bus stations). All depends on your preferences and needs. This is our room in Katowice, in a simple hostel (but a private room), close to downtown.
If you want to feel like home, cook (and clean) yourself, you can book a room on Airbnb. Here you will have options to book a private or shared rooms or a full apartment. Usually all properties are equipped with all basic stuff you may need. Sometimes hosts leave some food (and fruits/cookies) and even wine for their guest. This is so lovely!
If you’re not on Airbnb yet, click on this link to sign up and get $25-40 off your first trip. This is a great way to join the community and save money, which is not less important for any trip!
Otherwise you can book a room in a hotel using any of the booking resources, which are plenty, and earn bonuses. For example, if you make bookings using http://www.booking.com and complete 2 stays during 2 years (let’s agree, this is quite easy), you can get a Genius Level and get your benefits for your next trips. Once you get it, you will see already discounted rates on your searches with “Genius” logo.
As a Genius member you will have benefits such as 10% – 15% discounts at select properties, free breakfast on select options and even Free room upgrade on select options depends on your Genius level!
Here is more precised description for you:
Whatever you choose, the flat or a hotel, check the ratings, read all reviews carefully, and only if you find it acceptable, proceed with booking. After your trip is completed, don’t forget to leave your review too, so the others will also know all the benefits and bad parts (if there are some) of the place you stayed.
You are free to spend your time as you wish. This means you can sleep as long as you want or be an early bird to catch a great sunrise somewhere. You can start your day anytime and go for any places you’ve planned. You will collect memories for a lifetime instead of having some standard looking pictures (just like everyone has). You won’t have to follow the group and visit the most famous places with them. Instead you can take a chance to get lost in a city and discover some hidden gems that tourists would miss for sure. In case you have free time, you can take a train or a bus and see the nearby places as well: stroll in another city, spend an afternoon on a beachfront or visit museums. All that you wish is in your hands!
For me this is the best option to organize vacations. The only “minus” of this is that you’ll spend a lot of time on researches, plannings etc. But I always say that the medal has 2 sides, one of which is always positive. So here also, you will get benefits in knowing more the place before you go, discovering new corners that are worth a visit and much more.
Another “minus” could be not having a guide with you that would tell all interesting stories about visited places. But you can always take a tour (even a free one) or read about all the places that you want to learn about. Moreover, many museums and sites are providing free (or paid) audio-guides upon request. So this is also not a big loss 😉
So if you ask my opinion, I would definitely recommend to plan everything by yourself, unless you are not familiar with internet and all searching engines. Whatever you chose, I wish you to have a pleasant stay and unforgettable trip 😉