Day Tours: Yes, No, or Maybe

Travelers have differing view on day tours. Some people love them while other people loath them. I’m indifferent. If there is a day tour that’s worth the money and will show me aspects of a place that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to, why not? With that in mind, I have been on some crappy day tours, but I have also been on some tours that were well worth the money.

When I was in Scotland, I went on a three-day/two-night tour of the Scottish Highlands. I got to see some of the most beautiful landscapes the Highlands have to offer. We started in Stirling, went to Glencoe, then the Isle of Skye, and Loch Ness. I held a crab, ate raw scallops that we caught on the boat, and watched the sun set behind the loch. It was wonderful.

I recommended day tours to my family when they visited me in Ireland. The tour companies are pretty good, and the majority of them leave from Dublin City Center. I went off to work knowing that my parents and sister were well looked after and would enjoy themselves. They were able to see Connemara, Giant’s Causeway, and the Wicklow Mountains. Sure, they could have rented a car and seen these sites themselves, but I didn’t want to risk them getting turned around on some Irish back road with no phone. When we met for dinner those nights, they raved about the tour and all the sites they were able to see.

My sister and dad at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
My sister and dad at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge – Photo credit goes to Payton Cantrell

I am a big promoter of going to a new place and just figuring it out. I’ve done that happily in Oslo, Rotterdam, London, and countless other places. But sometimes, having that tour reserved allows you as a traveler to relax a bit more. You don’t worry about ending up in a rough area or suffering the stress of researching activities. When my sister and I went to Nice, France, we were so thankful for having a few tours booked.

She and I never would have been able to see as much as we did if we had gone at it alone. Like I said, I don’t mind getting a little lost in a new town, but Payton isn’t quite as adventurous as I am. Too, it was great to wake up and know that a van was coming to pick us up and take us to all the different places. She and I kicked back and enjoyed the South of France.

Of course not all trips go so well….

I have been on some day tours where the guides try to show you so much stuff that you can’t enjoy what you are seeing. Others haven’t exactly followed the itinerary. There have been times when I’ve wondered why I outed myself 50 bucks for some bloke to drive me around and not be sociable. And there was the one time we were in a wreck and then the time that it rained all day. Sometimes things happen on the trip that are completely out of your control. All you can do is sit back, relax, and write the review on TripAdvisor.

In further support of the nay category, some trips are best spent lost in a new town or doing the research yourself. When Jacquie and I took off to Oslo, Norway, we didn’t expect the trip we got. All we knew was that we had set up a couch surfing deal and hoped to enjoy some snow. Instead, all hell broke loose, and she and I ended up riding the metro as entertainment. It turned out ok though. We found a winter wonderland that we spent an afternoon exploring. When I was Switzerland in 2012, all my friends and I knew was that we had a hostel reservation in some town in the Alps. The three of us had to figure out the train system to get to Interlaken. From there, we had to wade through rough German to figure out what to do with ourselves for three days. And lastly, planning the road trip around Ireland and going on the road trip was one of the best experiences during my time abroad. Ryan and I had a rough plan of what we wanted to do and reservations as a few hostels. From there, he and I talked to the locals and found hidden gems to do on our trip.

Day tours can be good, bad, and ugly. They can show you otherwise hard to reach locations and can give you unique activities. Day tours also help relieve the stress of planning a trip. Just book that tour and go. At the same time, when you book day tours, you lose that travelers independence. You’re automatically reliant on someone to take you around. The places they show you may be crowded with tourists or the tours might be heavily overpriced. The guide could be crappy and the food might suck.

In the end, it comes down to how you want to travel. Sometimes I take day tours, and sometimes I don’t.

How do you feel about day tours?

**All pictures in the post are from day tours

12 thoughts on “Day Tours: Yes, No, or Maybe

  1. I feel the same way you do, pretty much exactly. There’s definitely a time and a place for ’em, but that time and place is not every single trip.

  2. We took some great day tours when we were in Morocco, to see the Atlas mountains (we are not keen mountain drivers and didn’t want to end up lost on some high road in the middle of Morocco with a rental car). The tours were great! I do research tours I want to book before I go on a trip, because once there I want to enjoy the place and not look for what I need to do anymore 😉

  3. I’m sometimes sceptic about them, mostly because I usually want to explore on my own time rather than being rushed from one place to another, but I have had quite some good ones here in Turkey. 🙂

  4. I love both tours and exploring for myself! It really depends on the location, budget and who I’m with, much like yourself. I feel tours are an excellent way to see a lot in a short space of time, but if you’ve got tonnes of time – exploring for yourself is when you can really experience the cultural rather than just ‘seeing the sights’. Great post, I’d love to do a tour in Ireland and Scotland too 🙂

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