For many travelers, taking a group tour is too difficult. Perhaps mobility issues make it difficult to keep up with the highly organized and exhausting group itinerary. Perhaps the flights to meet up with tour groups are so exhausting that it is impossible to enjoy the rest of the trip. Or possibly the planned approach to a guided tour is no longer attractive. If you fall into one of these categories, does this mean you have to hang up your travel gear?
When traveling with a group of tourists is no longer a good option for you, take the time to re-evaluate your travel preferences. There are many ways to see the world, many types of tour groups, and many new technologies available that can help you continue to travel, on your terms.
Plan a trip on your own
Consider “basing your home” on a rental cabin, hotel, or resort, using guides, local guides, taxi rides, and day tours to help you get to the places you want to see. This approach requires a bit of advance planning, but there are many resources available to help you. You can probably find local English-speaking guides through the tourist office of the country, state, or province you want to visit. A good travel agent can help you with the logistics. If you don’t want to drive, a hotel may be a better base of operations for you than a country house.
Visit places close to family and friends
This does not mean that you should stay with family members, but you will be able to take advantage of your local knowledge to help you decide where to stay and which attractions to visit. Some travelers build their entire vacation around family events, like weddings and graduations, and have a lot of fun getting to know the places their family members call home.
Choose a hotel or resort that offers activities and day trips
For example, in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, many hotels and resorts offer day trips with transportation to local attractions, including ecological parks, Tulum Mayan ruins, and adventure parks. There are many hotels and resorts around the world that offer similar opportunities.
Find a tour operator or cruise line that offers slower-paced itineraries
Some tour companies and cruise lines offer itineraries that are suitable for slow walkers. For example:
Road Scholar offers tours at various levels of activity. Road Scholar’s ‘4’ activity level would probably be a stretch for travelers with mobility impairments, but its ‘1’ and ‘2’ tours would probably work for most gentle walkers.
Slow Travel Tours is a group of European tour operators offering tours that offer the best of Europe’s culture and cuisine through hands-on experiences, demonstrations, and authentic adventures. Many of these tours and day trips can be customized so that you can travel at your own pace.
AMA Waterways offers “gentle walker” shore tours on many of its river cruises.
( Tip: Look at the itinerary for a tour of a place you have already visited. This will help you know how much the tour operator expects participants to do each day)
Be closer to home
If flying across the country tires you so much that it ruins your trip, choose a closer destination to be able to drive or take the train.
Use technology to personalize your trip
Mobile phone apps can help you find your way through cities and parks on your own. You can find travel apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android phones to help you convert currencies, translate menus, take city walking tours, and navigate airports.
Podcasts can help you visit museums, attractions, and historic cities at your own pace. Use your MP3 player or iPod to listen to one of the hundreds of podcasts available. Some museums, such as the New York City Museum of Modern Art, the Royal Museum of the Air Force in London, and the Vienna Hofburg, offer free MP3 audio tours. You can also find free and low-cost podcasts and MP3 audio tours at tourist offices or online.
Segway tours are available in many cities, including Washington, DC, Honolulu, Orlando, Paris, Berlin, and Budapest. You won’t have to worry about keeping up with the group while riding a self-balancing Segway.
The bottom line
Focus on what you can do and what you want to do, and build your journey from there. You don’t have to climb every bell tower or see every museum exhibit to enjoy a destination. You can travel at your own pace, at your own pace, in many different countries.