Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking the mickey out of your guided tour

I have never been on a guided tour.

More precisely, I have never been on a packaged group tour before.
With all the negatives you hear over the years about group packages, I still wonder why people would want to join those.

I guess it could be the worry of being in an unfamiliar place, of not knowing what to do or where to proceed that makes a lot of people join these tours. Then of course, there are those who prefer everything to be arranged for them without the hassle of doing it themselves. Convenience, I guess, is the word. That's the trade off for losing a lot on your tour.

All of my travels have been as a Free and Independent Traveller (FIT), or as we say here, Free & Easy. (Just for your info, the term F&E may not be understood by people outside Singapore)

Being free to plan my own itinerary gives me the freedom to do what I want, when I want it and for how long. As opposed to being with a group tour, where you are constantly herded and sent to places where they want to take you and where they get the best commissions from the retailers.

Let's face it, the tour guides are all part of the same circle in the tour trade. I scratch your back, you scratch my back. Of course, they will take you to those itinerised places as promised, but notice how the focus is a lot on taking you places to make purchases? bargain shopping? You are really left with minimal time to sightsee those places on the itinerary.

For example, a lot of my friends who have been to Disneyland have not stayed there beyond sundown. That's usually because of their tight program, they are rushed to another place, or to check into another hotel for the night, or for dinner, et cetra, etc. Sad to say, places like Disneyland do offer a lot of spectacular events at night, like laser light shows, fireworks and floats, which a lot of group tours may not get to see. You have to follow their schedule, alas.

For those of you who may have had the experience of the above, here's a short clip on Disneyland's night parade called Disney Electrical Parade Dreamlights. If you missed that at Disneyland, I am sure you would have also missed a lot on your guided packaged tour too.

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