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Surviving a small group tour

Sometimes it is good to be a passenger and follow a planned itinerary
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock Photos

Advice for feeling empowered, not imprisoned at small group tours.

Stay curious

With a tour company handling the travel logistics, it’s easy to switch into ‘passenger mode’, which can be a treat, so long as you’re not totally clueless about the itinerary. Do your destination research in advance, as you would for any independent trip (yes, even get a guidebook if you’re so inclined), so that you don’t spend the entire time playing catch up. Ask your guide lots of questions for extra context and recommendations – you can’t beat insider knowledge!

Befriend your guide

Communicating effectively with your guide can take your tour to the next level. Ensure they are aware of any basic needs or issues (such as dietary requirements, travel sickness, allergies etc) so they can help you stay healthy and happy. Explain your goals for the tour – be it trying as many new foods as possible, exploring local architecture or finding an authentic souvenir – and a decent guide will make it happen. Finally, it’s in everyone’s best interest to listen closely to briefings.

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Go with an open mind

All kinds of travellers take small group tours, so leave your preconceptions at the airport. You’ll probably be mixing with an international crowd of varying ages and personalities, all of whom have different experience levels and definitions of what it means to travel. Be patient with your fellow voyagers and take the opportunity to hear their perspectives on the place you’re exploring together – you could end up making friends for life.

Don’t follow the crowd

There’s going with the flow and there’s staying in a dive bar for a fifth slippery nipple when all you really want is your bed. Don’t feel pressured into sticking with your travel buddies 24/7 – alone time is a healthy way to punctuate what can be an intense group dynamic. If you need a rest, skip the morning activity and enjoy a lazy brunch, or eat at a food stall of your choosing rather than the group-friendly restaurant.

Take pocket money for extras

Study your tour inclusions closely and budget for any missing meals or optional activities. Unexpected expenses (or splurges) can crop up, so having a cash stash for those ‘oh go on then’ moments can prevent FOMO on the road. Many tour guides and drivers rely hugely on tips – if you think they’ve done a great job, be generous.

This excerpt has been taken from Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips.