Stride Tips: How to Choose a Tour Operator

By Samantha Scott
February 26, 2016

See our updated article on choosing a tour company in 2019 »

You know you want to go on a trip. You know you want to use a tour company. But how do you begin to choose? 

We know the experience of looking for a tour operator can be daunting. Knowing what trip is right for you can be challenging to figure out. Luckily, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to make the process as simple and easy, (maybe even fun!), as possible. 

Here are some tips to use when considering what tour operator is right for you:

1. Is the tour’s group size right for you?

Group travel

Group size is an important factor to consider when you’re researching a tour company. Small group tours can mean more flexibility and easier access to certain ‘hidden gems’ of a destination. But they also mean you will be spending a lot of time with the same people, so make sure that sounds appealing. If it doesn’t, a large group tour might be more appropriate.

How Stride can help: Our 'Stride Takes' are a great way to get an objective general overview of a tour operator, including group size.

2. Does the tour pace and physical requirements match your needs?


Europe

Tour pace can be a make or break factor in your enjoyment level. If you like to linger in a destination or at an attraction, a guided tour that emphasizes a lot of time in one place might be a good way to go. Or if you want to cover a lot of ground on your tour, look into a small ship cruise or a coach tour, both of which will stop in more places but typically stay for less time.

Also, be sure you know what the physical requirements are for the tour. Sometimes it may not seem like what you’ll be doing will cause physical strain. But walking outside for extended periods of time can be unexpectedly exhausting. Or visiting large castles and going up and down spiral staircases, for example, can cause dizziness.

However, if you have your heart set on a specific tour, don’t write it off if you’re worried about the physical level. Oftentimes, alternate modes of transportation will be available. And in most cases not all activities during a tour will be mandatory, so if one is too physical for your tastes, you can choose not to partake.

How Stride can help: The physical level of each trip is clearly indicated on our search results pages.

3. Have you considered any hidden costs?

Money to travel

Be sure you’re aware of what’s actually included in the base trip cost. Will you need to cover airfare? Accommodation or other amenities? Are there any free days on the tour when you might want extra money to shop? Also be sure you’re clear on any additional activities offered during the tour. These are often booked in advance and may cost extra.

How Stride can help: The price listed for each trip on Stride is from the tour company directly, and all inclusions are clearly indicated.

4. How important is cultural immersion?

market

Cultural immersion can mean a lot of different things. You may want a lot of focus on meeting locals, perhaps sharing a meal or staying a night in a homestay. Or you may want to take a cooking class or see a traditional dance.

Every tour company will have a different balance of how much “up close and personal” experiences they offer, so be sure you’re getting the right amount of cultural immersion for you.

How Stride can help: See a full list of cultural tours to find the one that's right for you.

5. Are all of the attractions you want to see showcased on this tour?

greece

Depending on the type of tour, you may not hit all the major tourist spots, or the type of attractions you were hoping to see. A bit of quick research into the itinerary will tell you if the tour you’re considering is going to give you what you’re looking for.

If nothing seems quite right, look into customized tour options, where your involvement is key in creating the trip. You can also look into tours that offer pre or post tour excursions, which may include more of the sights you want to see.

How Stride can help: Every trip page lists the itinerary, direct from the tour company. You can get a sense for the places you'll be visiting and for how long!

6. How flexible is the itinerary?

lone tourist

Sometimes you may not want a lot of free time, such as if the trip is shorter or you’re uncomfortable straying from your group. On the flip side, you may be wanting a little more free time to enjoy the destination on your own and at your own pace.

If you want a combination, many tours offer different excursions throughout the day, so you can go off with a smaller section devoted to a specific subject or theme. This allows for a little more variation in who you hang out with and might make it easier to make friends on your tour.

How Stride can help: Use filters to search trip styles and activities to narrow down the companies offering free time to explore.


Ready to search? Browse all tours »

Read tour operator reviews » 

Not sure if a guided tour is right for you? Check out these other articles on the Stride Blog:

5 Misconceptions About Guided Group Travel »

Top 10 Reasons to Take a Guided Tour »

 
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