Travel on one’s own can lead to meaningful and memorable experiences with a group

If you want to remove stress from the single-tourist scenario, many companies can help

Harriet Cuthbert. Contributed photo

Group vacations: an oxymoron if ever there was one. How could you spend many long months saving for your dream vacation, deciding upon your dream destination and then realizing that the most feasible and economical choice in your planning is to take an escorted tour?

Let us say, for example, that you want to visit Italy and you want to include major cities such as Rome and Florence on your itinerary, but you also want to see the stunning Amalfi Coast and maybe Cinque Terra. You have heard all the horror stories about Italian drivers who never have understood the meaning of a red light or a stop sign, let alone the need for speed limits. You know that an independent trip — which might involve using local buses and trains — would be harrowing and stressful, to say the least. Planning alone for such an excursion would ruin your vacation before you even took it.

And that is exactly where group travel comes in: a welcome means of saving your sanity and letting you enjoy the trip you deserve.

There are many well-established and reputable travel companies that want your business. It is a very competitive business, in fact. In the end, though everyone who takes this figurative path ends up traveling to his or her chosen vacation destinations in the same manner — on a bus, albeit a big air-conditioned, clean and comfortable bus that might even have a small bathroom “for emergencies only.”

You can find out a lot about people just from their “bus behavior.” Some travelers will fight for the same seat; some will always be late for the next destination; and some spend their travel time talking very loudly to their new bus mates across the aisle, thus ruining potential quiet time for others.

And let us not forget the concept of all 30 (an estimate) people, traveling as one, wearing nametags and following the leader to museums, public squares, wineries and/or beaches.

As group travel members, we have no minds of our own anymore; our leader is our thinker.

Still, many people on group trips somehow manage to separate into smaller clusters after finding compatible travel companions. I always look for people who laugh a lot because I know they are having a wonderful time and cannot be bothered to complain about minor issues. (Who cares if the staff offered mini croissants at one hotel and larger ones at another? Who cares if the hotel room is smaller than you expected or imagined? It very likely is in a beautiful, four-star hotel in a great location and you will only be sleeping in it anyway.)

Harriet Cuthbert has proof she took a group excursion this year to Giverny, France. Photo courtesy of Harriet Cuthbert

I could provide endless examples of people’s petty problems. The same people would probably complain about these same issues on an independent trip.

In the end, the choice is yours: convenience and less stress in a bus on a pre-planned trip with a group, or making all your own decisions and being with a lot fewer than 30 companions.

If I had to pick my favorite advantage of a group vacation, it would be airport transfers. There is nothing more welcoming — after a long, long plane ride and another long wait at Immigration — than to see a person at the airport wearing your name on a tag, waiting to escort you to your hotel.

I decide on my travel option depending on my destination. As long as I am still going somewhere, I let the chips fall as they may.

Always remember: Life is an adventure; enjoy the ride.