You’ve just made one of the most exciting decisions of your life. You’re going to take some time out—a summer holiday, a gap year, a career break—and see the world.
There are so many destinations to consider and so many ways of travelling. Round-the-world air tickets, Interrail passes, hostels, hitch-hiking, the festival circuit, chasing the sun—these will all come up in your research at some point. But TourHound wants to throw one more type of travel into the mix—escorted touring. And here’s why…
1. Take the hassle out of planning your gap year
With a tour, you can relax in the knowledge that an expert has planned your itinerary for you, and all you need to do is turn up. We’re not suggesting you spend your whole gap year on organised tours—it’s good to mix things up—but a tour can be a great introduction to a country or region, allowing you to find your feet and meet some travel companions for the journey ahead. It’s easy to tag a tour onto the beginning or end of your gap year, and it’s a great way of travelling point to point without flying if you’re on a round-the-world ticket.
2. Make friends for life
Transformative travel experiences can cement friendships for life, whether you’re white water rafting on the Zambezi or watching the sun come up over Machu Picchu. An escorted tour is a great way of meeting people if you’re travelling on your own, and your tour group will usually include plenty of fellow solo travellers. You’ll bond over shared experiences, keep each other entertained on those long bus journeys, and be guaranteed a group of drinking buddies if you want to sample the local nightlife.
3. Head off the beaten track
Well-worn backpacker routes such as South America’s ‘Gringo Trail’ are popular for a reason; this is where you’ll find the main sights, the liveliest hostels and the majority of your fellow gap year travellers. But not everyone wants to go with the crowd, and with so much world to explore, why restrict yourself? Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of camping with nomads on the Mongolian steppe, trekking Nepal’s Annapurna Range, or witnessing the Great Migration across the Serengeti? This is where escorted touring really comes into its own, allowing you to head off the beaten track with expert guides who’ll ensure that you avoid the tourist traps.
4. Flexibility and independence
Just because you’re on a tour, doesn’t mean you’re always following a strict schedule. Most tour operators build plenty of free time into their itineraries and a choice of optional activities. If you’ve got a free afternoon in Chiang Mai, perhaps you’d like to sharpen up your curry game with a Thai cookery class, or make some four-legged friends at an elephant sanctuary? Alternatively, you might prefer to just chill in a hammock with a cold bottle of Chang and a well-thumbed Gap Year Travel Guide. Travelling in a group doesn’t have to mean compromising on choice, and you can combine escorted touring with independent travel.
5. Stay on top of your budget
Budgeting is every backpacker’s nemesis, and it can be especially tricky if this is your first big trip away from home. One of the real plus points of an escorted tour is that you’ve already paid for the majority of your trip upfront, so you don’t have to worry about day-to-day costs for accommodation and transport. Most tours will also include some of your meals, plus extras like city tours, temple visits and guided treks. There are trips to suit all budgets, whether you want to rough it in a hostel, camp out in the countryside or stay in more comfortable hotels and guesthouses.
This article was written in partnership with TourHound