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Taking the Tour
The idea of a guided tour may make you shudder. You can just see the crowded, hot buses whisking tourists through the tourist traps of Europe. And that is certainly one option. But guided tours have grown up, and it may be time to take another look.
You can find a guided tour that meets any travel interest or budget. Finding the right tour can add a variety of dimensions to your travel experience.
The basic allure of the guided tour – that someone else handles the details of travel – still exists. If you don't want to have to research hotel choices or arrange for transportation or get your own tickets to museums and other attractions, a tour may be for you. Good tour companies provide comfortable, safe transportation and accommodations, and guides who can show you more of the local color than you might be able to uncover on your own.
In some areas of the world, tours are the easiest – and occasionally the only – way to get around. There are places where you might not want to venture unescorted, especially areas recently opened to tourism, such as eastern Europe, or remote locations with few roads or accommodations. Even if you manage to find your way around, you may miss a lot because you don't know where to look.
Some tours cater to people with specific interests. Want to visit the Galapagos Islands with a scientist who is an well-versed in the flora and fauna? Want to check out the haunts of James Joyce with an expert in the author’s work? Want to tour the wine country of France with an oenophile? There is a tour for you.
There also are companies that will set up a personal tour, for just you or your small group. They can take you wherever you want to go, and they handle the travel arrangements.
So how do you find a tour to fit your needs? You can talk to a travel agent, of course. Or you can search on the Web. Some interest-specific tours are available through educational organizations, such as museums and universities, and some of those are open to the public.
Before you book, find out as much as possible about the tour company. They should be able to answer some basic questions, such as how long they have been in business, whether they have any references, what kind of a refund you get if your vacation does not turn out as promised. Don't give them any money until you are satisfied that they can deliver what you want.
But once you have found a tour that fits your interests and your budget, pack your bags and head out. Bon voyage!