When planning a trip to Peru, should you travel independently or take an escorted tour? The answer is in what type of traveler you pretend to be and in the expectations you have for your trip. But even independent travelers are signing up for escorted tours, hoping to transfer the hassle of trip planning and organizational details to someone else. And now that travel companies know that travelers prefer more free time, smaller groups, and unique hands-on experiences, the escorted tour is more popular than ever.
I know what you may be thinking: ESCORTS TOURS are for seniors wearing shorts and fanny packs. You are imagining hordes of tourists disembarking from buses with cameras in hand, disturbing the natural rhythm of things near the beautiful ruins you have just arrived at.
Fortunately, that’s an outdated notion of escorted tours. They have grown, and escorted tour companies offer many of the same experiences that independent travelers crave. Many companies limit the number of passengers per trip, seek unique experiences through contacts at their destinations, and offer the kind of comfort and attention that seals the deal for many travelers.
Here are five good reasons to take a guided tour of Peru:
- A full-time tour manager accompanies the group, and their only job is to make sure you feel comfortable and happy on your travels. Is your room not up to par? Is your stomach bothering you? Can’t find that little shop that someone recommended to you? Tired of carrying your own bags or queuing to buy tickets to a site or attraction? Your travel manager is in charge of answering your questions, finding resources to help you with your travel activities, taking care of your luggage, and anything else that makes your trip more enjoyable. Travel companies based in the United States will often have an American tour manager accompanying the group, who will work in concert with a Peruvian tour guide. A tour guide is in charge of narrating the sites and bringing local color to your trip; the tour manager takes care of the details of the itinerary and the comfort and well-being of its passengers. Be sure to ask your tour company if they employ both a guide and a manager on their tours. And remember: a good tour manager can make your trip. You want to find a company that employs experienced tour managers. And like a good waiter, he or she is there to help you on your travels, not to dominate your time or control the journey.
- Leave the details to us: From start to finish, the little details of your travel experience are in someone else’s hands. It is discounted for flights, hotels, guides, transportation, meals, luggage and tickets. Your job is to sit back and enjoy your free time. But that doesn’t mean you become a passive traveler. A good tour company will allow plenty of free time in the itinerary for its own activities. They will employ experienced guides who can answer your questions and point you to other sites or activities that might interest you. Sure, there must be some “group mentality” for a tour to go well – things like being on time or being a pleasant travel companion are important to the experience, but smaller groups and less hectic tours mean that the journey it is less robotic. than it used to be, and more about taking your time and enjoying the experience. Other details, like not having to worry about your luggage or checking into or out of the hotel, along with meal planning and site visits, are done. This is precisely why tours are so popular.
3) Peru is fascinating, endlessly entertaining and beautiful, but it is a foreign country, in many ways far removed from ordinary experience. There are stomach bugs and annoying bacteria; there’s altitude to deal with, occasional petty crime, and a foreign language to deal with. A good travel company uses tried and true restaurants, hand-selected for experience. Your travel managers understand altitude and how it affects travelers, and they know the tricks of the trade to make you feel more comfortable at altitude. Good companies don’t want to interpret your experience for you, instead they hope to make your experience more enjoyable by removing any obstacles along the way. I called doctors, changed restaurants, ran races to collect recipes, and helped translate the language for travelers in Peru. For some people, knowing that they have support along the way makes the journey better.