For the most part, I really dislike group travel.
It’s loud, slow and has a way of always making me feel like I’m on a high school field trip. If I’m not alone, I tend to travel and explore with just one or two people, usually well-traveled, independent friends.
But this weekend I decided to try out my first voluntary group travel experience since moving to Korea.
Based off recommendations from friends who’ve been here longer, I joined a few Facebook groups aimed at helping foreigners explore Korea. With absolutely no cost or effort on my part, I joined the group and received almost daily invites to various trips, before finally deciding on a hiking trip on the Southern coast of Korea last weekend.
Based on my (sometimes anti-social) opinion, here are the pros and cons of the group excursion.
Little (to no) planning
While I love traveling, I really do despise the planning and organizing that it takes. The beauty of these groups is that someone is paid to plan everything for you: transportation, activities, food, lodging, etc. You just pay, pack, and get yourself to the designated spot.
Your group will probably hit up some well-known tourist spots along the way, but you’ll also have the opportunity to go places you might not otherwise have found. The head of our particular tour group was a Korean man, so he has the inside scoop into what the locals are actually doing.
This is a no-brainer. If you pack a bunch of foreigners into a charter bus and send them off for the weekend, they are going to make new friends. Especially if all of these foreigners have one glaringly obvious character trait: they are the type of people who packed up and moved to Korea for an adventure.
The easiest and most common ice breaker heard all weekend? “So why did you move to Korea?”
Even if you go with a group of friends, it’s fun and easy to meet new people. And a lot of the people on our trip were flying solo, and they left Sunday night with about 30 new people to hang out with.
And now for the bad:
Unlike solo travel where you have the opportunity to change your mind at any time, group travel is definitely more structured.
You relinquished all control when you let someone else plan the trip, so now you’re stuck with whatever activities and accommodations they chose.
That’s why it’s important to do research and figure out which groups/tours/packages are right for you.
Our trip was only a weekend, which was a perfect amount of time for me. It was long enough to explore a small part of Korea and meet people, but short enough that I wasn’t going crazy.
There’s no alone time
You travel as a group. You eat as a group. You shop as a group. You sleep as a group. And you wait in line for a shower as a group.
While this is all part of the fun, and definitely helps you get to know people, it can always cause a bit of stress or frustration. And let’s be honest, you’re not going to like everybody on the trip.
My suggestion: an iPod.
And lastly, I always feel a bit self-conscious when traveling with a huge group of foreigners. Mainly because we stick out and we are loud.
I feel like we often annoy and/or inconvenience the locals. But at the same time, we bring business to any place we go, due to our sheer volume. And in that situation all you can do is suck it up, and try to be the most respectful traveler that you can be.
After all, most people understand that you don’t represent the whole group.
So overall, the group tour was a perfect weekend trip that allowed me to explore a part of Korea I never would have known about on my own.
I would try it again, but probably just for another weekend trek – I’ll probably never be the type of traveler who enjoys the extended group tour.
What have your experiences been with group tours/ packaged getaways? Would you rather travel as a pack or solo?