Before you book your tour, here are some things to think about… If you’re not sure, ask. Get the answers in writing, if you still have doubts.
1. Is the tour tailored to beginners or experts?
If you are going on a specialty tour (history, art, cooking) and you already know a lot about the subject, you might be bored silly by information that a non-expert would find fascinating.
2. Does the tour guide speak throughout, or is it an audio tour with headphones or other media?
Will you be learning from an individual or listening to a taped expert played over headphones? Can you go at your own pace?
3. Who is your guide?
Are the guides locals? Trained historians? Degreed naturalists? Whoever the company could find who needed a job? Does the information tell you? If not, ask.
4. In what language(s) will the tour be given?
Definitely,an important fact to know before you book.
5. Is it all-inclusive, or will you have to pay additional admission fees?
If you will be visiting attractions during the tour, the price of the tour may be completely separate from the admission to those attractions. Again…ask.
6. Is food provided?
If the tour bridges a mealtime, ask if food is included in the price of the tour. If not, will there be time and opportunity to purchase something, or should you bring your own snacks? If food is available, what options are there? You’ll want to make sure the offerings suit your taste and dietary limitations.
7. What weather can you expect?
If your tour requires you to go up a gondola to a mountaintop and there is a temperature difference of 60 degrees…you’ll want to know ahead of time so you can dress appropriately.
8. How much physical exertion is required?
Unless it is a bus or boat tour, most guided tours require you to walk a bit. Find out how far, whether hills or stairs are involved and what shoes would be most appropriate.
9. Is the tour kid-friendly/handicap-accessible/etc.?
If you or anyone in your group has any special needs, even if they are as simple and common as being a young and restless kid, ask ahead of time if the tour will work well for that person.
10. Where does the tour pick up and drop off?
Many tours operate without official offices, so they might meet at street corners, near a famous statue, on the steps of a museum … you get the idea.
11. How long is the tour?
You know your own threshold for being led around and told stuff; some may want hours and hours of information, while others want concise overviews before going on their own again.
12. How much time is spent in each place?
Sometimes folks on tours complain of having been rushed through a place they really wanted to see and absorb, while others report having had to linger over something in which they had little interest. Do your research.
13. Are there other tours along the route?
Travelers who prefer to avoid the built-in crowds that tours bring with them can feel even more hemmed in when there are multiple tours all visiting and talking about the same thing at the same time. You could ask about this before you book.
14. What size is the group?
Do you feel comfortable in a large group or do you prefer a more intimate one?
15. Will you get to break off on your own?
Many tours will give you a lot of information followed by a little bit of time to poke around yourself.
16. Is it safe?
If you’re not sure, check with the State Department about the city or country. Read reviews as well.
17. Does pricing change by the week or day?
Something that should be listed.
18. What’s the inclement weather policy?
If your tour is outdoors, will you get a refund in foul weather, will you be rescheduled to a different day or time, or do they expect you to show up no matter what the weather is like?
19. What’s the cancellation policy?
You’ll often have to schedule and pay for your tour ahead of time. Before putting any money down, find out what happens if you need to cancel or reschedule.
20. Is the tour well reviewed?
There will always be bad reviews. Read them all, regardless. Do they lean more toward the positive aspects or the negative ones of the tour?