I’m happy to help with travel dilemmas whenever I can and encourage you to reach out with this Dear Deal Mommy series, at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as via facebook or twitter.
TDM reader Eric and I were having an engaging chat over Twitter this week that is summed up as “I have 3 days in Rome. I’m doing a Vatican Tour one day, should I add in an all-day tour of Rome the next?”.
Whenever I face such a question, I ask myself “What would Clark W. Griswold do?” and pretty much do the opposite. However, I both get and have the desire from time to time to cram in as many sites as possible, especially with family. TDM Reader Steve had a variation of the same question a few months ago.
So I wanted to dig a little deeper and share when I do, and when I don’t, take a tour.
- Does the tour provide me access I can’t get on my own? If it does, I’m inclined to say yes. In Rome, for instance, City Wonders has a unique relationship with the Vatican that allows their “early access” groups (of less than 20) an extra 15 minutes in the Sistine Chapel before it gets thronged by tourists. Worth every penny.
- Is transport difficult to the site I want to see? Again with Italy in mind, I’m not inclined to take a group tour of Pompeii since there’s a train station close by. Also, Pompeii is mobbed in the morning by the tour groups so going solo in the afternoon may provide me some peace.
- Does the tour make an activity that may be shady on my own safe? Here I’m thinking of night-time walking tours, a tequila tasting tour, etc. There are times having a group with you is the only way something can be done.
- Is the tour on a large bus? With exceptionally rare exceptions (in fact I can’t think of one that the moment), there’s going to be a smaller tour option in a similar price range, so I steer clear.
- Does the guide offer expertise I can’t replicate? Here I’m thinking of chef-led market tours, tango lessons, etc. I did a Market Tour and Cooking class in Hua Hin, Thailand with 2 locals named (I’m not making this up) Jack and Moo where we ended up at Moo’s mom’s house preparing dishes I can recall by smell to this day. I could have NEVER come up with that on my own! (Sadly, Dr. Google seems to tell me that they are no longer in business.)
And the most important question: Why am I traveling? Is it to mark off a checklist or to truly experience my destination? Unless I’m in need of escape for a weekend, I tend to find the 1-2 “must see” (TO ME) items and make sure I’m seeing them in the best possible way. 3 days in Rome, for me, it’s the Vatican and the Colosseum I MUST visit well, so that’s where my limited dollars will go. I might add in a night-time walking tour if the subject (ghost, wine, etc.) interests me as those generally take up time I wouldn’t be using anyway.
What do you think of my checklist? please share yours in the comments.