Over the past several years, Tim and I have taken a few escorted tours in Europe. The first was with our sons through the Northern part of Italy, zigzagging across the country as we worked our way south to Rome. I must admit that I took this tour, with my feet dragging. I had been a travel agent. I could plan a great trip for us without needing to use a tour. But Tim was nervous about the language barrier in Italy and felt more comfortable with a tour guide. His other argument was that we had limited time and wanted to make the most out of it, without getting lost or wandering without purpose.
Well, we took a 17-day tour that was fantastic. It converted me to the benefits of small group tours. Here is was I learned.
- Tour guides are knowledgeable and have a passion for their area of expertise
- Tours can get you past the long tourist lines into major attractions, like the Vatican
- Tours let you relax and enjoy the scenery without worrying about getting lost.
- Tours take you off the beaten path and give you a taste of local culture
This last point is why I will continue to take tours.
During our Italy trip, we had private wine tasting at country B&B that was also the winery. We were treated to a pesto making demonstration, which became our dinner. In Venice, we were given a private demonstration in a Venetian mask making shop, with the history of why they made masks. We would never had been able to duplicate these cultural experiences on our own.
Last summer, we toured Eastern France. This was a cultural tour as well as a wine tasting tour. We had tastings at wineries and caves all up and down the country. We enjoyed the small towns of eastern France and experienced their joy of victory for a World Cup game and the silence of defeat. Sitting in a street side café and watching the victory celebrations from that game was an amazing experience.
The shear amount of history and culture that can be gleaned from your tour guide is amazing. I was a History major in college. I found that I really know very little about European history. All of the history that we learn here is American based. There was a lot more to the World Wars than we were involved in. Our guide in France had a passion for art history that she shared at several museums and historical sites.
So, whether you take a private city tour in your destination or a full-blown escorted tour. There is value in paying the extra money to have access to an expert at your side explaining to you what you are seeing, giving suggestions on where to dine or what specialty to try.
The next time you are thinking about travel, think about having a tour guide to help make your experience more meaningful and more memorable.