After a Decade of Travel Writing I Just Took My First Group Tour and Loved It — Here Are 8 Reasons Why Everyone Should Travel This Way

by  Jamie Davis Smith | Mar 19, 2024
Courtesy of the author

I’ve been a travel writer for over a decade, but even before I launched my writing career, I traveled far and wide. I’ve stayed at five-star resorts and guest houses so basic I wasn’t sure they were legal. Although I’ve joined in on plenty of day tours lasting several hours, the idea of joining a longer group tour spanning a week or more never appealed to me. I didn’t want to lose control over any part of my trip, from where I stayed to the sites I would see. However, after hearing friends rave about group tours, and not wanting to plan a last-minute trip entirely on my own, I decided to take the plunge and book a trip with Intrepid Travel. Two of my children and I traveled through Morocco with a group of other families for 10 days. It was a great experience and I wish that I had tried a group tour sooner. 

What’s Included in a Group Tour?


Since I was a group tour novice, I wasn’t sure initially what a group tour included. While tours vary widely, mine included transportation from the airport to the first night’s hotel, all accommodations, all breakfasts, some lunches and dinners, admission to most sites included on the itinerary, transportation in a private van throughout the tour, and a local guide. Our tour guide handled everything from the logistics of checking into hotels and making sure we had Wi-Fi passwords to telling us about the history of sites on the tour, recommending restaurants for meals that were not included, and answering questions about local culture. The tour did not include tips, airfare to and from Morocco, or transportation to the airport at the end of the tour.  

Here are 8 reasons everyone should consider a group tour.

Creating an Itinerary is Practically Stress-Free 


When most travelers choose a destination they know the main sites they want to see, whether it’s the Colosseum in Rome or the Great Migration of wild animals in the Serengeti. It’s easy to get excited about seeing the world, but it isn’t as thrilling to get into the nitty-gritty details of how you’ll get from the airport to the hotel or from Lima, Peru, to Machu Picchu. Booking a group tour moves a lot of this responsibility from you to the tour company, freeing you up to concentrate on the more interesting aspects of travel.

Even those of us who think planning a trip is fun reach a point where it becomes stressful. Choosing hotels, researching restaurants, booking tickets to attractions, and figuring out how long you will need at each site takes a lot of time. I love looking for off-the-beaten-path attractions, but often become bogged down when it comes to comparing hotels and end up developing decision paralysis.  

Once you settle on a tour, all you need to do is pack. Many tour companies, including Intrepid, can also arrange flights and help with accommodations and activities before and after the tour. 

When Things Go Wrong, Someone Can Help on a Group Tour

Often, even the best-laid plans get derailed. It can be hard to adjust on the fly, especially if you are in a country where you don’t speak the language and aren’t familiar with the culture. If something does go awry on a tour, chances are the tour guide will take care of it.

On my tour, which ended on New Year’s Day, one of the hotels unexpectedly changed their policy to require a three-night minimum stay over the holiday. Instead of scrambling at the last minute, our tour company took care of everything and made sure we didn’t spend New Year’s Eve sleeping on the streets of Marrakech or paying a grossly inflated rate. 

There’s Safety In Numbers  


Traveling can always carry some risk, from pickpocketing to more serious crimes. In some countries, risk is heightened for certain groups, such as women traveling alone, people of color, and LGBTQ+ travelers. Even in countries where travel is relatively safe, there’s always safety in numbers, and a group tour ensures that someone always has your back. 

As a woman traveling alone with two children, I’m often worried about getting cash from an ATM. This could have been problematic in Morocco, which is a mostly cash-based society, so I was very happy that on my tour I always had someone to go with me when I needed to get money. 

Group Tours Come With Built-In Company 

iStock/Ezye Moleda

Group tours, big and small, will invariably involve meeting new people. It’s safe to assume that you’ll have a lot in common with others on the tour, since everyone in the group sought out the same type of tour to the same location. Plus, if you get sick of your travel partner or they want to spend an afternoon hanging out at the hotel instead of exploring, chances are you’ll find someone on your tour to buddy up with for the day. People tend to make life-long friends from around the world on group tours.

As a mom who often travels without other adults, it was nice to have some grown-up company, and my children made instant friends with kids from Australia and New Zealand. Although I didn’t stay in touch with anyone from our tour, my family enjoyed spending time with the people we met on the tour.  

Group Tours Help You Use Your Time Wisely

No one wants to travel halfway around the world just to waste time waiting in line. Similarly, no one wants to return home from a trip completely exhausted because they didn’t build in enough downtime. Group tours tend to strike a good balance between keeping you busy and building in free time that you can use to relax or seek out attractions that aren’t included in the tour.  Even if a tour operator doesn’t plan a trip exactly the way you would, I trusted that an experienced company knew how to maximize the time I had to spend and thought it was worth the trade-off to miss a couple of things on my list (which I could always schedule into the provided free time). You can also plan to spend time at your destination before or after the tour: I arrived in Morocco early and spent a couple of extra days in Marrakech to give myself time to recover from jet lag before the tour and to see some sights that weren't included. 

In Casablanca, my tour group had a guide waiting for us when we arrived at the country’s largest mosque, which is the second largest in the world. It was nice to be able to bypass the crowds. I also liked that the tour had some downtime built in for those who needed it, sometimes with optional excursions available at an additional cost for those who wanted to explore more. On many trips I’ve planned myself, I find that I miscalculated how much time I needed in a city or at an attraction, which wasn’t a problem on a group tour: I never felt rushed or like I had too much unexpected time on my hands to fill.  I thought that my tour generally struck the right balance, although we had a couple of people who liked to shop on our tour and a few times I found myself wishing that I didn’t need to wait for them to be done to move on.  

There's Added Local Insight and Color

iStock/Mikhail Sotnikov

Group tours are usually led by leaders who have in-depth knowledge of the area. Intrepid uses local teams to plan all of their tours and all of their tour leaders are local. Getting insider tips from someone who knows the area intimately is very helpful. Tour guides can point you to less-visited but beautiful attractions and fantastic restaurants that haven’t made it into guidebooks. Good tour leaders should be able to answer just about any question, from local customs to where you can find an ATM that doesn’t charge an obscene fee. They can offer practical tips, like how much to tip, and help you navigate situations in which there’s a language barrier. If something goes wrong, like you need medical attention or help replacing your passport, your guide can point you in the right direction. 

One woman on my tour became ill and I noticed how attentive the tour guide was to her needs and making sure she had enough water. He offered to arrange for a doctor to see her, although she declined and recovered on her own. I also liked that our guide gave us insight into different Moroccan customs, such as sharing how his sister’s marriage was arranged. 

Group Tours Can Be More Affordable 

It may seem counter-intuitive that group tours would be less expensive than booking everything on your own and traveling without a guide, but that’s frequently the case. Tour operators can often negotiate discounts on hotel rooms, admission prices, and meals, since they are booking these in bulk, and will pass these savings on to their customers. Also, many groups use buses and vans for transportation — five couples sharing one van is obviously less expensive than taking individual taxis to multiple destinations. 

The tour I took was around $2,000 per adult, with a discount for my children. While not cheap, I thought the price was fair considering that so much was included and that we had a private driver and guide the entire time. I didn’t price out how much each included hotel, meal, and excursion would have cost if I had paid on my own, but imagine the price would have been close. 

Group Tours Have a Lower Impact on the Environment 

Courtesy of the author

The unfortunate reality is that most travel harms the environment in some way. However, traveling in a group can help lessen your environmental impact. Sharing transportation doesn’t only save money, it’s more environmentally friendly. On some tours, groups choose to pool resources that can help the environment. For example, group members may choose to share one big water jug instead of each person buying their own bottle. One big jug creates a lot less waste than 10 small bottles. Intrepid goes even further by figuring out the carbon footprint of each trip and taking steps to reduce it, something that is hard to do on your own. Our tour even provided everyone with canvas tote bags so that we didn’t need to use disposable plastic bags throughout the trip.

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