Custom Tour Packages allow you to speak with an expert to plan your trip rather than following a set itinerary already established by the tour operator. Where you go, how many days you spend there, and what kind of travel and accommodations you choose are entirely up to you. Your trip could include a private guide or guides, or you may want to guide yourself. Working under the guidance of a tour agency – some of which specialize only in custom tours -- you choose where you want to go and when, and the agency takes care of much or all of the logistics.
Customized tours have recently entered the mainstream of the tour business. Once mainly the province of the wealthy few who could afford to hire a tour agency to put together a trip just for them, custom tours are now widely offered by a whole range of tour companies, including those whose main business is offering guided group tours.
The effect is that custom tours – while generally more expensive than standard guided group tours for a variety of reasons – are no longer limited to just luxury tours that would bust the budget of many a traveler. With added competition, including that from more budget-oriented tour agencies, lower-cost custom tours are now much more readily available.
This isn’t to say that luxury custom tours are no longer predominant. They are, partially because budget travelers still tend to look to guided group tours first, where the economies of scale – and typically less work for the tour agencies – add up to lower prices. But the field is widening.
Who Are Good Candidates for Custom Tours?
Honeymooners. If you’re on your honeymoon, you may not wish to travel in the company of people you don’t know. A custom tour can easily be fashioned into a romantic tour of, say, Italy, or – for adventurous couples – a land-river tour of Southeast Asia or an African safari complete with private guide and luxury safari tents.
Families. Custom tours are ideal for families who fear that their children will miss the company of other kids on group tours where adults predominate. Parents may also feel that other travelers will resent having children along on their group tour. With a custom tour, parents can emphasize quality family time together and make sure their kids’ interests are taken fully into account. Custom tours can also work well by adding grandparents to the generational mix, or perhaps by joining up with friends who have children the same age.
Other small groups of friends or associates who want to travel together and follow the same itinerary, specific to them.
Individuals or couples who like traveling by themselves but don’t want to spend much time on logistics or who want expert advice in setting up their trip. Every custom tour should offer those two advantages.
Travelers who can’t find exactly what they want in a standard group guided tour. They’ve combed the brochures but none of the tours offered to their destination meet their needs in terms of timing or itinerary. With a custom tour, they can go where they want when they want.
Travelers who want to go at their own pace and maintain more flexibility and spontaneity than guided group tours may offer. While many group tours offer some time to go off on your own, you may want more free time than that – and you still need to keep up (or slow down) to stay with the group. With a custom tour, you can choose your level of flexibility – for instance, you might opt for a rental car and arranged lodgings on a driving tour of Wales, keeping the rest of your day free to roam as you wish. (Custom tour agencies will provide suggested routes, sights, eating places, and other ideas, but you can make the final decisions on the spur of the moment when you’re there.)
Is a Custom Tour Right For You?
You know best what kind of traveler you are. If you enjoy making new friends or having lots of company on a trip, or feel more secure traveling with a group, you may be best suited for guided group tours. If you have very specific ideas about what you want to see or do on a trip, and can’t find guided group tours that fill the bill, a custom tour may be right for you.
Many tour agencies listed on Stride specialize only in individualized custom (sometimes called "tailor made " or “bespoke”) tours. Many other tour companies will custom design a tour for you if you prefer that to a standard tour.
What to Look For if You're Considering a Custom Tour
- Expertise in the region of your destination
- Personalized service that ensures you get what you pay for
- A robust policy of assistance during your trip if needed
- Highly trained local guides if you want them
- Competitive prices if you’re on a budget