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Taking time out to travel? How not to be terrified

28th August 2014
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If you’re about to head off on your gap year, the thought of having to sort out your own itinerary and travel plans whilst in a country you know nothing about might feel more than a little bit daunting.

If you want to avoid the hassle of having to plan every minute of your trip yourself via a language you can’t speak and a currency that you can’t pronounce, booking yourself onto a group tour where you’ll meet a few other solo travellers is probably a good place to start.

There are lots of benefits to going on an organised tour, and one of them is that you’re likely to have a Tour Manager who can organise the things that you won’t necessarily know how to deal with – from how to get from the bus to the beach to how to find the best hidden cocktail bar in a brand new city.

Earlier this year The National Student spent some time touring Croatia, a country that we’d never visited before, with our friends at Contiki Holidays, the experts in adventure holiday planning for the travel-thirsty amongst you. Aside from acting as the social buffer between 20+ people who had never met each other, our Tour Manager provided us with a wealth of other benefits, from helping us find the boat on day one to acquiring t-shirts printed with a group fancy dress photo later on.

Here are a few reasons why booking onto an organised tour with an experienced Tour Guide can make your travels so much better...

The safety and security offered by having an expert on the local area around all the time is extremely reassuring, not only for your own peace of mind but also for that of your parents, who are possibly sat at home refreshing your Facebook page in a fruitless quest for updates and imagining all the disastrous situations that you could have got yourself into 3,000 miles across the sea.

If you’ve just set off travelling or if you’re on your own, the support network offered by having someone on hand to advise whilst you find your feet is invaluable. If you’re in entirely different country, where local traditions are more important than you’re used to, this becomes doubly important.

If you’re travelling for more than a couple of weeks and/or planning on visiting a few different places, you’re going to have a lot of planning to do – from day to day activities to where you’re going to eat to how to get to your next destination and whether you’ll have anywhere to sleep when you arrive.

This is of course an exciting part of travelling, but if you’re away for six months or a year you’re going to need a break from the itinerary planning at some point – because really, there’s only a certain number of hours people can spend in backstreet internet cafes before they go a little bit crazy.

On a Contiki trip, your Tour Manager will organise all of these aspects for you, allowing you the chance to relax and genuinely not worry about where you’re headed next – perfect for the beginning of your trip, when you don’t know what’s going on, or the end, when you’re exhausted – or any other time that you need a break from Googling hostels.

In each destination you visit, there are going to be hidden places that you’d never discover on your own (cocktail bar on the roof of an abandoned fort, anyone?), and this is where following the lead of a Tour Manager can come in especially useful. You basically have your own guide, allowing you to avoid the tourist traps, and since they’re likely to have visited the area a few times before they might even have a bit of a rapport going with local bar and restaurant owners. Free shots all round!

The same goes for activities that you can only do in a group. Even though it might sound like a fairly amazing experience (which it is – just don’t do it hungover, ok?) kayaking around the walls of Dubrovnik to a secluded beach just isn’t something that you’re going to organise if you’re with a group of friends – we’d guess that you’re more likely to be in bed at 10am post night out than climbing into a lifejacket. It’s even less likely if you’re on your own. But on an organised tour, shake off the morning cobwebs – your Tour Manager has booked you onto it and you don’t want to let the side down, do you? Of course you don’t.

The best thing about an organised tour with a Tour Manager, though, is probably the manner by which they immediately become the social glue that holds together a group that has never met before - to such an extent that the same group is likely to meet up again afterwards, or even in the future. Through organising group activities, dinners and nights out, the Tour Manager ensures that the group is always inclusive, and that you’re safe the knowledge that it doesn’t matter who you’re sitting by all evening - because everyone is together and the experience is communal. And it’s this, of course, that’s what travelling is all about.

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