Planning a trip on one’s own is an adventure by itself!  It’s a wonderful learning experience. I’m big on history and enjoy reading about the culture and development of these places over time. 

I think, too, that reading some facts beforehand fosters familiarity and better brain retention of at least some, if not all, of the multitude of details which a tour guide provides during an escorted trip. The schedule is your own and you can be as laid back or as dynamic as you wish. Major downsides: Vendors can flake out, go bankrupt, charge unreasonable fees, etc. By the way, please check the visa requirements of your foreign destination. This detail is your responsibility.

Angel Island, San Francisco, CA is the Ellis Island of the West.

Escorted tours, on the other hand, have great merits. The travel agents/tour operators already did all the work for you. They have access to group discounts that are, otherwise, not accessible to the public. Established tour companies have a lot of experience and have excellent tour packages with reasonable rates. The travel agent takes care of EVERYTHING. All you have to do is to show up and enjoy the trip, hassle-free.

Major downside: Most of the activities are under time constraints and, thus, hectic. However, there are a few days devoted to solo explorations. You can go back to those places that piqued your interest. BTW, I highly recommend availing of the equally exciting side trips (yes, extra pay but not that much and so worth it)…since you’re already there. (So many places, so little time.)

My personal travel agent is Affordable Tours and my favorite tour operator is Globus Journeys. Check them out at and (These are not affiliate links nor is this post a sponsored blog.)

In my opinion, when going to a destination that is familiar to you in terms of say, culture or locale, then independent trip planning is fine, if that is what you want. However, when going to foreign shores, I would go with an escorted tour, especially for first timers. Why? For safety reasons, guaranteed reservations with vendors, reasonable package rates, more bang for your bucks in terms of visiting multiple sites, freebies, networking maybe…need I say more?

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