As I've said before, life is all about balance. You won't like everything, but you also won't hate everything! Here's a rundown of the balance that comes with traveling in a tour group.
There's no guidelines or restrictions! Be everyones bud!
Just like back at home in the real world, you won't want to be friends with everyone. Some people you just don't click with, and that's ok too!
You're given a time and a place and all you have to worry about is being there. No hassles with tickets, language barriers or missing out! Hell, if you wanna get straight on the bus in your Pyjamas, go for it! Border crossings and visas also come under this. It's all done! Sit down, relax, and enjoy the view as you drive through the gates.
No sleep in's or 'don't worry we'll just catch the next one'. It's usually pretty strict timing so you can fit as much awesomeness into your trip as possible! If Mr. Topdeck says 'we're leaving at 8' you best be there at 7:45. They may not leave without you, but you might be on clean up duty for the rest of the day.
Your tour guide/company will have a lot of background knowledge on other companies reliability. Usually you'll have tour companies teaming together. This is great business for them, but it also ensures you a safe, reliable and worthwhile tour/experience. It's a lot easier than scouring the streets for that bearded guy, you once heard about, selling tickets to the best show in town.
Obviously your tour company isn't going to recommend someone who is a direct competitor, even if they are better. So still do your own research, discovery is all part of the fun!
If ANYTHING goes wrong, you have so many people to help you and support you. Traveling is never a perfect experience. It could be something small like losing your hair straightener or more serious like losing you're passport. You have so many avenues to get what you need as soon as you need it. In our case, we left our passports in Paris on the second night of our tour. This meant staying back and then catching up with the tour later on. Our tour leaders were incredibly helpful and supportive! They did absolutely everything in their power to get us on the right track. It was so comforting knowing others were looking out for you and hoping things would go right asap.
Because everything is prepaid and pre-organised, if you miss a bus pick-up or lose your passport, your group can't just wait around for you. Most parts of the tour, if you miss out, you won't be refunded. In some cases, some travel insurances will help you out but nothing will be straight away. This obviously means paying double for any mishap. When we had to stay behind in Paris and say 'cya in a few days!' to our tour group, it was an extra $500 in hotel stays, train tickets and food.
Not to mention fun!! You'll have so much support that you won't need to worry about the little or big things. Safety is a huge concern when traveling solo, and though you may not be with someone the whole trip, it's nice to know you have a group of people who are there for you if something goes wrong.
Hostels, camping, 8 hour bus trips, 45 people to a group.... not exactly a romantic getaway. But you will meet amazing people, including other couples! Enjoy the learning experience. Whether you're in a new relationship or on your honeymoon, you can always learn new things together and be faced with fresh scenarios, where it's interesting to find out what both of you may want and need, as a couple and as individuals.
Photo from Topdeck Tom