Touring can be a lot of fun and a great way to travel, especially if you are on your own, but a good tour and guide make all the difference to the experience you will have. Believe me, I’ve experienced both.

Some tours seem like great value because you'll see so much but once you are on board it's just a whirlwind of travel, which is mostly seen through a bus window and you don’t actually get to experience much at all. A lot of tours can be very clicky too, with everyone in their little groups.

A good guide will get everyone to mix and will be there for the tour members to give them the best trip possible, not to just tick off each place they pass through.

As an example, I did a tour of Europe -6 countries in 10 days and one of Italy - Called a taste of Italy. I naively thought 6 countries in 10 days was great value for money and that a taste of Italy referred to the food! Wrong on both counts. Both tours were just a blur, spent mainly on a bus, leaving early in the morning and arriving in the evening. Often just having dinner in a country and off to the next. A taste was exactly that, a tiny little bite of what there was to see. I guess a positive I can take from that is I did want to return.

On the free days, we were just left to fend for ourselves with no guide of where to go or what to do. Because there was no connection between the tour members most were unwilling to mix or consider other passengers.

An example of good vs bad tour guides.

On the Europe tour - when we were in Paris our tour guide told us nothing of what we looking at. She just walked us to the different spots and said take a photo. She had most of the tour so scared of getting scammed or of being a victim of pickpockets the whole experience was negative and I hated Paris by the end of it. The bus driver who had been doing those tours for many years occasionally tried to speak up to point out things we were passing and was told to keep quiet. One of our free nights in the Rhine Valley and the entertainment was a karaoke night - featuring guess who? Our guide who loved to sing (badly), no other options were given and we were staying out of town so not really any other choices.

Fortunately, (although at the time I was regretting it), I had already booked another 4-day tour in Paris for Christmas. Our tour guide was a history professor and he loved Paris and being a guide. Even though we walked the same streets the experience was completely different. He bought the history of the place alive and pointed out things we had previously walked past unnoticed, he told us stories of different characters and famous locals and just made each spot so interesting. I loved Paris by the end of that tour.

On our free day we had the option to go to Paris Disneyland which we did, he came with us on the train to the gates and then headed back to help other tour members.

Spirit Journey Guides

The guides Julia has on her tours are wonderful. They go above and beyond with each tour. They actually go to every spot on the itinerary and check out the access and meet the owners or caretakers etc. and have a backup plan for unforeseen circumstances. They know the history and stories from each area and location. On our Outlander tours, they know the Outlander connection to that place and the behind-the-scenes details.

As an example of above and beyond.

On our last Steam train ride Paul noticed the windows of the train were dirty (which is always the way with a steam train, soot is just part of the experience), he rushed out and purchased window cleaner and cleaning cloths and he and Caroline cleaned the windows in our carriage. If we have free time to explore the local area, they always give us suggestions to places to visit or restaurants and cafes to visit.

Connecting on the Spirit of Outlander tours is easy too. We have the Outlander connection so there is always something to talk about but also because we all connect online before we leave, it's like meeting up with friends when we arrive.