We’ve all heard the praises being sung to GPS technology and its alleged ability to save us from utter chaos. Yet no sooner did it become the new “must-have” auto accessory than accounts began to surface of its rather spectacular failings. Every month or so, up pops another story about some hapless soul being led astray…only to wind up on a riverbank or clifftop in the middle of nowhere.
And that’s not even counting the potential for good old human error. Consider the cautionary tale of the Swedish couple on a driving vacation in Italy who mistakenly typed in “Carpi” instead of “Capri.” Four hundred miles later, when their GPS informed them they’d arrived (in a northern industrial city), they actually asked a bemused tourist official the way to the Blue Grotto. We can only hope they eventually located the Amalfi Coast, not to mention a proper boat.
So what’s our point? That even when we give the benefit of the doubt to that pleasant, disembodied voice in our cars, there are times when nothing beats a personal chat between like-minded travelers to discover the simplest, most pleasurable route.
That’s how we happened to create a GPS-like list for potential guests called 10 Foolproof Ways To Find A Walking Tour:
Of course, any adventure tour company that’s worth its salt can reel off 10 good reasons why guests should travel with them. But for travelers, it’s all about value…and locating where the best value lies.
If you happen to be comparison shopping right now for the perfect adventure tour, we hope you’ll get some serious MPG out of the tips below. We promise: no dead ends along the way. And we’ll even show you a side of Capri that most tourists never see!
10 Foolproof Ways To Find A Walking Tour
1. Give your mouse a workout.
First off, spend some time on the company’s website (just like you’re doing right now!) to get a real feel for what they’re all about. Scenic photos are great, but sections called “About Us” or “Our Philosophy” will reveal if you’re on the same page with the company founders and their team when it comes to adventure travel.
2. Compare apples with apples.
Read a sample daily itinerary (or two or three) to see if the company’s approach to exploring a new destination jibes with the way you like to travel. How many hours a day do you like to walk? Does a relaxed pace — like pausing for picnics under the trees or visiting village artisans along the way — appeal to you?
3. Get to know your companions.
Check for short bios about the company’s tour guides. Do you consider it a plus that the person leading your tour is native to the region? Or that the same on-the-ground experts accompany you every step of the way, rather than making occasional cameo appearances?
4. Consider your sources.
Speak to a member of the company’s Guest Services team for firsthand answers to your questions. They’re the masters of minute details, whether it’s describing a specific hotel, sharing inside info on must-see sites, or solving scheduling challenges. Then take them up on their offer of testimonials from recent guests.
5. Remember, size matters.
It’s probably the most common misconception about guided walking tours: that you and a flock of others will be herded around like sheep. Many companies encourage groups of 20, 25, or even more. But if the maximum number of guests per departure is under 18 and the average is 10 or 12, you’re good to go (with not a “baaaaa” to be heard).
6. Insist on keeping it real.
Authenticity tops the list when it comes to adventure travel. Shop for the kind of non-touristy experiences you could never access on your own, like cooking lessons in private homes and professional kitchens, private tastings with winemakers and olive growers, and private visits with local children at their village school.
7. Focus on inherent value.
“Greatness” is reserved for adventure tour companies who go the extra mile to match their guests to the perfect trip. In addition to achieving the requisite level of luxury, it’s the intangibles like eliminating logistical hassles and language barriers and providing painstaking attention to detail that make a tour company truly priceless.
8. Strike the right balance.
Adults on vacation need time for themselves, too. On most family trips, keeping the kids entertained and happy is a full-time job. If a carefully orchestrated blend of kid time, grown-up time, and together time sounds better to you, look for a company with guided tours geared specifically to active, multi-generational families.
9. Put your personal stamp on things.
Say you love an itinerary, but the company’s departure dates aren’t in sync with yours. Or that you want to choose the people who’ll be by your side on a private tour, large or small. Can they custom-tailor a trip for you? All it takes is a company with the imagination, capability and clout to make the proper tweaks in all the right places.
10. Gain added insight from travel insiders.
No, awards aren’t everything. But being singled out for recognition by the travel industry is a definite bonus. Is the company generating a positive buzz within the travel press? Click on links to awards and special media mentions to find out what in-the-know national publications are saying before making a decision.
At Classic Journeys, we’ve been steering guests in the right direction on our small-group walking tours for 15 years. You can browse our adventure tours in 68 regions in 31 countries on five continents at ClassicJourneys.com.
In the meantime, if — like the wayward Swedes mentioned above — you’ve ever faced your own directional challenges while traveling, we’d love to hear who “saved” you and how! Drop us a note any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.