Independent Travel Versus Group Tours

After taking a two week group tour through Nepal, I can safely say that group tours are not for me. Although I enjoyed my trip and there were times when I was happy to have a guide that was able to help communicate with the locals, I have also been able to get to know myself better and realize I need more freedom while traveling.

Here are a few pros and cons to traveling with a group tour, which may help you decide if it’s right for you.

You Don’t Get To Call the Shots

I don’t like people telling me what the entire schedule for every day of my trip is going to look like. At first I thought it would be nice to leave the planning to somebody else, but what I found is that this causes me to be very unprepared, especially when the tour company does not give good instructions on items that are necessary to bring for things they have planned each day.

When the tour company tells me there will be no strenuous hiking and only light walking for short periods of time during a two-week trip, then I do not bother to bring hiking shoes, which take up a lot of space in my bag. Imagine my surprise when we are then told there will be a 13-mile hike on somewhat rough terrain to get from one hotel to the other. The result: a swollen and sprained foot that became very painful for the next few days of my trip.

Lack of Alone Time

I’m an independent person and I need my own space. I found that when I chose to do something different than the rest of the group for part of the trip, I was then questioned as to why I didn’t want to go. I don’t like when I’m constantly questioned for things that I want to do or don’t want to do while I’m traveling. I sometimes have my own agenda and enjoy spending time alone.

Choosing Your Travel Buddies

Since you won’t get to choose your travel buddies, you may get stuck traveling with people who drive you nuts and test your patience. There were also a few times during my trip when I wondered if some of the people in my group had ever traveled before. They complained constantly when the hotel wasn’t perfect and were completely inflexible whenever there was a slight change in plans.

Leave the Planning Up To Someone Else

When you travel independently, sometimes it can get stressful finding a hotel or getting from one place to another. If you are the type of person who doesn’t want to deal with any stress, then traveling with a tour company or booking all inclusive holidays can make that part of your trip significantly easier. However, you are then stuck with whichever hotel or hostel they pick for you and sometimes they choose hotels only because they know the owner and want to give them their business and it may not be the type of hotel you would have chosen for yourself.


There are a few positives to traveling with a group tour. If you are traveling alone, it’s a lot less likely that you will be lonely. You will always have somebody to talk to and the ability to share your experiences with other people. It’s also possible to build great friendships with the guide or the people in your group. I met interesting people from Holland and learned a lot about their culture and picked up a few Dutch words.

The Best of Both Worlds

I personally only chose this tour because it was a photography workshop and I thought I would enjoy traveling with other photographers. I also wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to photograph areas that only the locals can take you. If I were to do it over again, I think I would have enjoyed spending half of my trip traveling alone and half of my trip traveling with the photography workshop so I could get the best of both worlds.

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  1. Bluegreen Kirk says:

    I guess I would fall in the middle of traveling alone vs a group.  if the group is just two people not 4-7 then I am cool.  Of making sure you pick the right people is the biggest issue.  Go with people you have been on trips or vacations with before.  I don’t want to go to a completely strange place alone though I love my alone time.  I guess with men its different because its easy for us to get away from the group.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Maybe some tours are different and they don’t make you feel like you have to join the group for every activity. I was in a very small group, 4 people, so if one of us left, it was definitely noticed.

  2. Country Skipper says:

    Good points! I never took a group tour, but they can probably make sense in more remote areas of the world. I have done a tour once where Marco and I just hired a private guide for the day. We were in Cairo on a loooong layover and wanted to see some things, but didn’t feel like we had the knowledge to pull it off alone. I felt like hiring a private guide was the best decision we could make. And in the end it was well worth the money! We had a rough plan, but since we were the only guys we could decide how long to stop where, where to eat, if we wanted to change the whole plan, etc. Don’t know if something like that would be possible in Nepal though.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I definitely enjoy the day tours in certain countries. We did the same thing as you and rented a diver for the day in Bali and I loved it. We had a lot of freedom to choose our itinerary and I loved not having the stress of driving in a foreign country.

  3. Meg | One Love Meg says:

    I think another benefit is it keeps you structured and in some cases motivated. I agree I am not a huge fan of group traveling but sometimes it really does work out better when you have a group leading you around. You may see places you would have never thought of on your own.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Yes, very true. I was very motivated to get up at sunrise and I may not have done that if I was on my own.

  4. Mark Tisdale says:

    I’ve both traveled alone and in group tours. You’ve done a good job of outlining the pluses and minuses. For me, the last few trips, I’ve tried to do a little of both. When I went to Ireland, I was arriving right before New Years and I figured if I was on a tour, I had a built in group to ring it in with. Similar idea for the last trip to Mexico (and for that one frankly I would have never covered the distance I did on my own in that time period). In both instances though, I had some alone time following the trip where I could make my own decisions about where to go, when to go, etc. 

    Still, I have learned that for me, group sizes have to be small. I kind of figured as much but the Ireland trip turned out to be 60+ people. For every trip before and since, I had groups of a dozen or maybe on a few occasions close to 20 people, and I always left with some people I stayed in touch with. How many did I stay in touch with in a group of 60+, zero! That size just sets off all my introversion perimeter alarms! LOL

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Wow! 60+ people! That’s crazy. I definitely see the value in traveling with a group on occasion. I guess I’m lucky because I’m usually traveling with my partner, so I already have a travel buddy. If I were traveling solo all the time, I could see doing group tours in small doses. 🙂

  5. I really like independent travel most…. but after doing it for awhile, it is nice to let someone else plan everything out!

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I hear ya on that one, Jade. Sometimes it’s nice to be chauffeured around. lol 🙂

  6. Technosyncratic says:

    The only group travel we’ve done was a three-week trip through India with my academic program… so our guide was one of my professors!   It was nice because our guide is (was) from India so she could yell at the touts in Hindi, but there were also tons of restrictions on what we could do.  And as a student, if I disobeyed my grade was affected.  😛  It was an interesting experience, but Kali and I can’t wait to visit India on our own terms.

  7. Grace-Pinayonthemove says:

    The leaving the planning to someone else is something that attracts me to Group Tours. But I realize I am too much of a control freak and want to do things my own way. Believe it or not I also do not like doing small talk with strangers which is why I like doing independent/solo travel.

  8. Erica&Shaun Kuschel says:

    I think choosing your travel buddies can make or break the trip. I try to stay away from group tours, but sometimes you just really want to enjoy and not worry too much.

  9. I usually like to travel without a group. However I like to take small tour from time to time. For instance I took a half day food tour when I was in Virgina and I get to try out some of their famous restaurant and learn about history too.

  10. I think there are definitely specific times and places for group and independent travel. Like you, I like to be in control and having the freedom to stop wherever for however long is great. A lot of people from Australia (home) do Contiki and Top Deck tours which I think is perfect if you have never travelled before, but for experienced travellers, I wouldn’t even consider this option! However, we did do a fantastic tour in Scotland (Haggis Adventures!!) from Edinburgh up to the Isle of Skye and Loch Ness. Our tour guide was brilliant and we had a group of about 18 people in their 20s. We had an absolute blast and made some friends for life 🙂 

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I agree, there are some places that I might like to combine Group travel with independent travel, but I don’t think I will do a group tour the entire time I’m in a country again.

  11. Green Global Travel says:

    Always preferred independent travel myself, but there are definitely pros and cons to both Thanks for sharing.