If the phrase “guided tour” time travels you straight back to standing in scorching heat amongst a mass of uninterested tourists while the dullest of speakers rambles on, you’re not alone. Memories like these have left a bitter taste of guided tours or group trips for many an experienced traveler. Vacation should be fun after all—not a struggle to stay awake while visiting an incredible location.
Thankfully, you can forget all you know about those generic guided tours of yesteryear. As travel has evolved, so has the modern day group travel venture. Today, a guided tour is a multi-day once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where tour professionals extensively craft unique trips with today’s traveler in mind.
No matter your age, interests, ideal destinations, price range, and more, the perfect guided tour exists seemingly tailor-made for you. So what exactly is a guided tour nowadays? Way more than you imagined.
The Modern Guided Tour
If you’re one of those few people who can’t get enough of those traditional, impersonal, and dry group tours, worry not. They totally still exist. For the rest of us though, companies like Tour Llama now give us access to countless incredible opportunities to explore our world in a whole new way.
Choosing a modern guided tour (also called a group trip or group tour) means riveting, exclusive adventures from local experts that know more about your destination than anyone else on Earth. After all, the best way to learn about a place is through its own people. Better yet, you’ll be sharing every moment with a select group of fellow travelers looking for a similar experience.
These aren’t your generic one-size-fits-all group tours. These are professionally curated trips made with specific travelers in mind. There’s everything from Caribbean dive trips with only a few other certifiably seasoned divers, to larger expeditions through the Moroccan desert on camelback. Imagine going on a custom adventure with the trudging work, like itinerary, transportation, meals, lodging, and more, all done for you. With a guided tour, you can focus on the journey—not the logistics.
And with tour guides and trip leaders all locals (or those so close to the community they might as well be) you’ll get the exclusive inside scoop of your surroundings. They’ll essentially act as your personal liaison to the culture you’re immersed in, allowing for more authentic connection to that spectacular place.
How Does It Work?
Guided tours are incredible full-service trips where travelers pay one set registration fee, plus your airfare to the destination, and every detail about your adventure is covered. All excursions are thoroughly researched and designed to provide a safe, well-planned and streamlined experience.
Guided tours can range from the relaxing and rejuvenating, like the a Desert Meditation & Yoga Retreat, to the extreme like trekking to the Adventuring through the Swiss Alps. Whatever kind of escape you’re looking for, there’s a trip for that.
Though there are several ways to find great guided tours, we recommend going through companies like Tour Llama, which will perfectly match you with only the most trusted, high-quality guided tours via our direct to consumer tour guide marketplace.
What’s a Guided Tour Like?
Since there’s no cookie cutter tour, there’s also no cookie cutter answer. But no matter your preference, you can always expect a professionally planned travel experience with no detail overlooked as well as:
For an example of a past trip, here’s an excerpt from an actual itinerary for a recent 7-day group trip to visit the Highlights of Albania.
Planning your vacation isn’t the time to take risks. Save that for the adventure itself. Sure. you could book the first trip that pops up after searching for “Mexican Guided Tours,” but then chances are sky high that you’ll end up in a world of travel disappointment financially and emotionally. We wouldn’t wish that feeling on our worst enemy.
By using expert services like Tour Llama to narrow down your options, and a few simple pieces of advice, you’ll be booking your dream guided tour in no time.
What’s Your Budget?
First things first. Before you get caught up in the allure of a 20-day Antarctic expedition, make sure you can actually afford it. If you can—awesome! Say hi to the penguins for us. But if after punching the numbers you realize it’s a little out of reach, worry not. If you can afford to travel, you can probably afford another fantastic group trip to quench that thirst for adventure.
Many are honestly surprised with how affordable full-service guided tours can be, especially once they consider everything they get out of that flat fee. However, it’s still important to understand your realistic price range. Also, be sure to include all the extra expenses like roundtrip airfare to your destination, or any extra days you might want to add on before or after the tour itself.
Figure Out Your Priorities
Fantasizing about sipping wine in Tuscany? Maybe exploring Latin America with the kids? Or just finding a great guided trip on a small budget? Whatever your priorities may be—budget, location, activity level, kid-friendliness, etc.—it’s important to determine exactly what your top priorities actually are. This will also help you figure out what type of guided tour you’ll want to join.
Like anything, there’s a chance you won’t find a trip that literally checks everything off your list. Don’t think that means missing out on the trip of a lifetime. Just think of your priority list and see where you can adjust. Maybe you’re set on Southeast Asia but the Thailand trip is a bit too pricey. What about Cambodia or Laos—two countries less touched by tourism? You may wonder why you considered Thailand at all.
Though we can’t promise a month-long African safari on a shoestring budget, Tour Llama will track down some amazing adventures that’ll appease your adventurous soul while also being kind to your wallet.
Read the Fine Print
Though the majority of reputable tour companies, including Tour Llama, practice as much transparency as possible, it’s still important to dig apart every bit of the itinerary and details before making your final decision. The last thing you want are any surprises thousands of miles from home.
Though many group trips include everything—lodging, meals, transportation, excursions, etc.—from the time you get picked up at your destination airport to when you’re dropped off at your final location, some trips (especially those with the “budget” label), may leave some things out.
In addition, to make sure you find the perfect group trip fit, it’s essential to know exactly what each trip entails. How rigorous are the hikes? Will be the group be large or small? Are you sleeping in tents or 5-star hotels? These are just a few of the many questions you’ll want definitively answered before officially booking any trip.
Book with a Reputable Company
Booking with the right, professionally-run tour company can make or break your group travel experience. Unfortunately the internet and brochure kiosks alike are full of shady, money sucking tour companies offering “amazing trips” that are frankly anything but.
You should have no problem learning about group leaders, their background, and their certifications. If the company shows any hesitation in addressing any questions or concerns, consider it a major red flag.
At Tour Llama, we only partner with the most highly-rated tour guides boasting years of stellar reviews. Though we always recommend doing your own homework before registering for any guided tour, trust us to help you book the experience of a lifetime.
Choice is one of many reasons we love guided tours. Fantasize about sleeping under the stars in the shadow of Everest? Maybe connecting with yourself at a Japanese meditation retreat? Or bonding with your kids while they get a taste of life abroad for the first time?
Whatever experience you’re craving, there’s the right guided tour for you. While we can’t make that decision for you, the Tour Llama team is here to help you understand the different kinds of tours out there.
Narrowing down your guided tour priorities is a great way to determine what tour to ultimately book. We’ll help jumpstart that process by describing the different guided tour categories you’ll likely encounter while on the hunt.
Depending on the importance of your priorities, use one, some, or all of these categories to help lead you to your journey of a lifetime.
If nothing gets your heart pounding like the idea of completely immersing yourself into a new culture—and everything else is an afterthought—this is the place to start. Spend some time researching the many incredible world-wide locales offered through our group trip partners.
From can’t miss cities like Paris to more untouched corners of the world like Bhutan, count on finding a top-rated tour at your dream destination. Here are a few of our location-based trip categories:
A dose of passion makes everything better. Why not take an already incredible experience up a notch by integrating it with something you love—and with others who love it? Many of our guided trips combine sightseeing and cultural adventures with excursions, classes, and experiences created with a specific interest, travel preference, and more, in mind.
Here are some of our most popular interest-based tour categories:
For you, it’s all the about the adventure. No experience is greater than exercising your active passion with other like minded travelers at an unforgettable destination. From hiking the world’s greatest peaks to kayaking through Alaska’s frontier, our expertly led activity-based trips let you enjoy the ride without worrying about the hassles.
Here are some of our most popular activity-based guided tour categories:
One huge advantage of the guided tour is the ability to craft trips with specific activity levels in mind. This ensures travelers looking for a relaxing mountain getaway won’t find themselves on a rigorous trek through the Andes. It also keeps thrill-seekers from waiting on that unprepared hiker as they lag farther and farther behind.
That’s why our guided tour partners rank every trip with an easy, moderate, strenuous, or ultimate challenge label (or a mix of two) so travelers know exactly what they’re getting into before signing up.
Ready to decompress and take it easy while traveling the world or are you ready to test your limits while summiting your dream mountain? Either way, we've dug into what each of these guided tours might look like in our blog posts Take It Easy: Wellness Group Tours to Relax and Rejuvenate and What’s An Advanced or Extreme Group Tour? Am I Ready?
We’d all love an endless stream of travel money, but for most of us, there’s a limit to what we can realistically afford. Thankfully, guided tours offer a wide variety of trips for nearly every price range—from the ultra-luxurious to the surprisingly budget-friendly.
Whether you have three days or three months, Tour Llama will match you with an incredible guided tour based on your ideal trip length.
For some, a large tour group equals more friends to meet and make lifelong connection with. For others, it’s all about a small, intimate experience with less chatter and more serenity. Whatever your preference is—you guessed it—there’s a trip for that.
Need to find a fantastic trip that works with your schedule? We get it. Just choose your date range and Tour Llama will pull up all of the tours currently available in that timeframe.
At Tour Llama, we’ll only match you with high-quality, professionally developed group tours. Now it’s up to you to explore countless amazing trips based on what matter most to you in your guided tour. If you don't have time to review all the options, you can schedule a call with one of our agents and we'll do the hard work! Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
Choosing the perfect tour guide can easily make or break your once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. When booking a group trip, you’re relying on this person to be your leader, organizer, teacher, liaison, interpreter, friend, and SO much more. As important as the destination is, researching and picking the right guide is equally, if not even more, significant.
How often has a passionate, personable communicator made a formally dull topic fascinating—or an apathetic one done just the opposite? What good is a bucket list trip to Antarctica if your unenthused leader would clearly rather be in the Caribbean? A bad guide can easily ruin an entire trip.
We want every traveler choosing a group tour to squeeze each morsel of excitement and enjoyment out their journey. That starts with making sure you pick the perfect tour guide or trip leader for the job.
What’s Their Experience?
Ensuring they’re fully certified is only step one—and an absolute must—but that’s not all it takes to lead an incredible guided trip. It’s also important to know their background. How many years have they been guiding similar tours? Are they educated in a specific niche related to your desired tour? How extensive is their knowledge of the region?
When you’re trekking across the planet for an insider’s look into a culture or experience, don’t settle for good enough. Instead, find a guide uniquely experienced to offer a first hand glimpse into their world. From a French-trained chef leading a Paris foodie tour, to a born and bred Iranian taking you through the bazaars of Tehran, you’ll never regret traveling alongside a true expert.
Be On the Same Page
First off, what do you specifically want out of a group tour? After all, a dream vacation for one traveler might be the trip from Hell for another. Top-notch guides strive to design amazing experiences tailor-made for the specific tour. It’s essential to be honest with them, and yourself, about what your travel desires.
For example, is your ideal trip more touristy or off-the-beaten-path? Want to party until dawn, or be up at sunrise for morning yoga? Looking forward to ample relaxation or traversing the Himalayas at 20,000 feet? Different guides specialize in different tour styles so be sure you choose one that fits yours.
Find First-Hand Reviews & Testimonials
Reading reviews is an invaluable way to get an inside peek into past trips. Sites like Tour Llama and TripAdvisor will list ratings and testimonials about how previous adventurers enjoyed—or didn’t enjoy—their experience. They’ll give insights into how each guide conducts their tour, providing an eye-opening look on whether they were say, knowledgeable, hilarious, calming, passionate, egotistical, scattered, etc.
Also, don’t only read reviews about the tour company itself. Always search for the actual names of specific tours and tour guides as well. If possible, get in contact with someone who recently traveled with the guide you’re interested in to snag the real scoop.
They’re a Bridge to the Local Community
Whether they’re a true local, or immersed themselves later in life, a great tour guide should respect—and be respected by—the community they’re guiding you through. They should be a seamless liaison, knowing not just the cultural ins and outs, but also clearly maintaining warm, legitimate relationships with residents.
Lastly, tour guides should never be condescending to either travelers or community members. Everyone is in this experience together and any hint of superiority or cultural disrespect should act as a major red flag.
They’re Fun, Passionate & Professional
This isn’t just their job—it’s their life and there’s nowhere they’d rather be. It’s apparent that teaching others about the places and experiences they love is their undeniable passion. Even if they’ve done this journey or told this story a thousand times, they’re just as enthused to share it with you today.
Finding a charismatic leader with a sense of humor and an honest desire to listen and connect with travelers is essential. This isn’t just to make your adventure more fun, but also because even the best trips get tedious, stressful, or even problematic. Tour guides need the right personality to get through these inevitable hiccups with complete professionalism, and a lightheartedness to confidently keep spirits up even if morale is down.
All in all, your tour guide should feel like a trusted, knowledgeable travel companion not just by the trip’s end, but hopefully from the very beginning.
Booking Your Guided Tour
Now that you’re overloaded with guided tour knowledge, it’s time to finally book your dream adventure. But just visualizing your trip won’t make it a reality—so where do you go from here?
There are several ways to book a group trip, all culminating in that beautiful confirmation email stating that everything’s a go. But depending on your free time, budget, travel experience, etc. some people might prefer one method over the other.
Trust a Guided Trip Expert
For the most hassle-free, personalized experience possible, we suggest using a travel expert to help you build and book your trip. Call us biased, but we personally recommend collaborating with one of Group Bookd’s travel experts to help you discover your perfect trip.
Just book an appointment and whether you know what you want—or don’t have a clue—they’ll help you find a fantastic trip tailored to your specific travel desires. By listening to your interests, budget, travel goals, destination preferences, and more, we’ll work one-on-one to create an experience you’ll never forget.
Also, remember that most tours don’t include airfare to the initial destination, or any details before or after your trip. But by using a guided trip expert, worry not. They’ll happily assist you in finding these flights and working through any logistics to get you to and from your group trip.
Book Directly With Group Bookd
If you’re a confident, independent traveler or already know exactly what you’re looking for, skip the travel expert and find your trip directly with Tour Llama.
Just go to our Trip Finder page, plug in what you’re looking for, and any trip that fits your criteria will pop up for you to explore. We promise every Tour Llama trip will be a certified, premium experience that exceeds the highest standards of travel.
Once you find the right one, just click Book My Trip and BOOM! You’re officially set for the journey of a lifetime. In minutes, expect a confirmation email with your itinerary, group leader contact information, and anything else you need to know about your upcoming travel.
Booking a Group Trip On Your Own
Surprise! This is our least favorite method—and it’s not just because you’re not booking with us. Of course, we’d love for every traveler to choose the Tour Llama experience. More than anything though, we want travelers to enjoy the simplicity that group travel provides from beginning to end.
Booking on your own means everything is in your hands: complicated logistics, scouring reviews, picking the right location, comparing countless companies, etc., and then hoping everything perfectly falls into places. Group travel is supposed to make travel more carefree, so why not make it that way from the start?
I’m All Signed Up. Now What?
It’s the final countdown! Dates are set. Flights are booked. Passport is up-to-date. Now it’s time to prepare, pack up, and get seriously pumped for the adventure of a lifetime.
But don’t just sit there twiddling your thumbs until the big day comes. Group trips take out many of the painstaking tasks of travel planning, but we can’t do it all for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for your group trip.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often travelers show up to their destination woefully unprepared for the weather. Don’t forget that summer in one place might literally be winter in another. Also, avoid assuming a region’s climate. It’s not always snowing in Alaska, and nights in the Sahara can fall close to freezing.
Make sure you spend ample time researching average temperatures, precipitation, chances of inclement weather, etc. specifically for the time of year you’ll be traveling. Also, continue monitoring the current weather and future climate predictions up until departure day so you can make any last minute adjustments.
If any intense weather is anticipated, stock up on the necessities to protect yourself like sunscreen, sunglasses, umbrellas, ponchos, spiked shoes for icy trails, extra layers, etc.
Clothing, Footwear & Other Essential Items
A few weeks before your trip, use your weather research to narrow down what clothing, footwear, and other essential items you’ll need to bring along. Also, thoroughly read your entire itinerary. That way, you’ll know what activities, occasions, or outings you’ll need to dress for.
Next, determine what you already own and still need to purchase. Tracking these items down can be tricky so avoiding putting it off until the last minute. No one wants to waste their precious vacation time searching for things they couldn’t find back home before departure day.
Once everything’s been pulled together, you may have to narrow down what’s actually coming along. Since many group trips involve multiple destinations, packing light is encouraged. Always include the essentials like a warm jacket for winter travel, top-notch shoes for hiking trips, and plenty of clean underwear, but you might be surprised how little you’ll miss that “other stuff” while on your adventure.
Get Your Mind and Body in Shape
If you’re heading out on a more intense adventure, ensure you’ve been training for the challenges ahead. Trekking through epic mountain passes will be easier—and more enjoyable—if you’ve been regularly hitting up your local trails. Lagging behind your group while you’re always out of breath is never fun.
Preparation is also smart for wellness and mindfulness retreats—especially if you’re a beginner. Though typically not required, by grasping the basics of say, meditation or kundalini breathing before your trip, spend more time rejuvenating and less time deciphering an entirely new practice.
If you’re unsure about how to best prepare for your group trip, never hesitate to ask your trip leader. That’s what these seasoned professionals are there for.
Countdown to Departure
After months of anticipation, it’s almost time for take-off! Make sure to keep an eye on your flight status, print hard copies of your itinerary, and triple-check that you’ve packed everything you need.
If you’re flying international get to the airport three hours early, or two hours for domestic travel. Check-in with your passport, cruise through that security line, and enjoy your flight. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, grab your bags and head over to the predetermined meet-up location. Since you picked a certified Tour Llama tour, it’s time to relax and enjoy. We’ll take it all from here.
Now go have the adventure of your lifetime!
If you're not quite sure which trip is a good fit for you or you still have some questions, schedule a call with our team. A member of our team will be able to walk you through the various destinations, activity levels, and interests to make sure you have a world class vacation!