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x Many foreign travelers start with bus tours to get their feet wet.

1. How to evaluate Tour Quality vs Cost? 

Whether this is your 1st package bus travel tour or one of many, IT should be one of your life’s highlights. The greatest value of tours to most folks, particularly, a 1st time traveler,  is that tours can be worry free, well planned, organized, professionally guided to fulfill your travel dreams, fantasies etc. for money you have available   

Show up on time with your luggage, etc, a little pocket change and you are good to go. They do all the rest, if you wish.

If you take the time to read this Tour section, I can  guarantee you will be well prepared to choose that nivarna of your ideal tour versus price.

A. How to value tour factors?

I can expose the key factors, but you must weight their relative value to your preferences.

B. How to compare quality factors vs. price?

In daily life our quality & costs are intimately connected.

tour is the same, but with several variable factors you need to understand … before .... you start your research of tour package’s options & costs. Generally, as in most purchases, the higher the cost, the greater the quality experience.

However, sometimes lower price merely disguises lower quality.   A similar "looking" tour offering may be hundreds of dollars less expensive because its food, lodging, guides and itinerary are sub-standard.

FYI, “Best and worst package holiday providers”:


II. Pros/Cons & 'Deep Dive'

The content of this Bus Tour blog is divided into two very distinct large sections: 1) Pros and Cons synopsis and 2)  Quality vs Price factors. 

1st section's “Bus Tour Pros and Cons” 1st section gives you 1) a quick overview of all Bus Tour package factors that influence a tour’s quality & price, & 2) allow you to COMPARE Bus Tour factors with Cruising & SIT (independent travel) tors.

2nd section's “Tour Factors - Deep Dive”, digs deep into each specific Bus Tour factor that might influence your tour choice & price. In each of these two sections there are links to greater in-depth factors discussions including how to do your research says suggestions ???

In each of these two sections there are links to greater in-depth discussions of specific criteria for tour selection.

Your ONLY guarantee of quality vs cost is 1) a tour company’s reputation AND 2) thoroughness of your research of tour offerings based on the 13 tour factors I am providing you. [pplk: sub-pil: Bus Touring]

It is vitally important to choose the BEST, most fulfilling tour experience possible for the money you have available. 

My Primary Goal is to lay bare each factors key elements for you to consider in choosing your life’s ideal tour.

A. Other considerations?

1) understanding my 12 tour factors discussed below will enable you to wisely evaluate the worth of individual tour packages.

2) While we might start with a dollar amount in mind, certain revised judgements may make you more financially flexible.  Your call.

3) depending on importance you place on each tour factor, you may opt for a shorter trip with higher quality amenities than the reverse 

NOTE: I will save the actual discussion of your tour cost for the very end of this section for several reasons:          ..[Jump LK]

B. Tour PROs: 

1) Minimum anxiety: maximum travel safety, predictable lodging & food quality, efficient & comfortable ground transportation & navigation arranged in advance.

2) Casual dress: mostly what is comfortable & tasteful.  

3) New friends: frequent, if not constant, bonding with fellow travelers & tour guide

4) Planning & Logistics: worry-free, pre-arranged ground transportation, food; conveniently located lodging, site tickets, local guides

5) Season / trip dates: Simply select the season & schedule that matches your goals

6) Region/Country/City: Simply select ideal tour date schedule for tour package with your most preferred sights/activities/amenities vs money.

7) Sensible Itinerary: “Goldilocks” Rule: not too many or too few; just right # of countries, cities, sites etc. Too many site at low cost may be cattle drive.

8) Sights & activities: match sights & activities that you most want with your desired quaity of tour. Becareful of too many or 2nd Tier sites.

9) Guide’s Expertise: BEST: Tour company’s hired & trained guides are presumed best! Better quality tour may have more experience.

10) VIP perks:  Tour's tickets may bypass tourist lines; interesting side excursions, 

11) Eco-friendly: Tour pro-actively seeks to protect & sustain environment. BEWARE: of Greenwashing: travel businesses that fraudulently ‘pretend’ to practice ESG, but really don’t. 

12) 'Support local’: attempts to direct its expenses to locally owned business RATHER THAN government (Myanmar’s M military) or foreign corporations.

13) Price & extra costs: All inclusive (all. included)—  versus.—  All-exclusive ( not so much) 

C. Tour CONs: 

1) Regimented Itinerary: Inflexible, rigidly controlled: badges.[LINK] YT tour grp clips

2) Dress: Milan’s La Scala opera prohibits shorts or sleeveless T-shirts, But Tour should advise in advance of trip.

4) Same people: same people constantly: you may like, or not, tho often easy enough to avoid on large tours

2) Rushed schedule: Very superficial, rushed herd mentality; too much too fast @ low price.

3) Tiring: cattle drive speed @ sites & activities may wear you down.

.) Habitually late guests: annoyingly disrupts planned time-on-site for everyone. 

6) Arranged meals: “Set” menus, Americanized, dubious quality & local cultural authenticity

7) Lodging: huge, impersonal, poorly located, hostage meals, large bus-tour hotels

8) Excursion Guide: hires 'next-available-local-excursion' guide from guide pool, IOW, quality of guide & info varies.  To be fair: Some local guides are terrific.

9) Distracting Commentary: guide’s constant commentary may distract from site experience... even tho guide’s just doing their job. 

10) Authentic Local Culture: Moving to fast thru culture to engage meaningfully or contrived/not authentic.

11) ’Shop-steered” visits: Unnecessary, unannounced ‘forced’ ‘shop visits’: tailor,etc. hoping ypou will buy something for their 'kickback.'

12) Tour’s Extra costs: EX-clusive tour’s do NOT include all expenses; investigate.

13) Tour Price: always a mix of quality & expenses vs profit; investigate.


BUS TOUR Factors




What factors influence Package Tour quality?  (condense to save meat for sub-pillar)



1) What are the package tour factors determining quality vs cost.:

  1. Where tours go or can’t go?
  2. Tour Length
  3. Advertised vs “actual’ travel days:
  4. Tour size:
  5. Guest Age:
  6. New Friendships
  7. *Lodging:
  8. Multi-nite vs overnight stays:
  9. Restaurants
  10. 10.Guides
  11. 11.Shop Steering:
  12. 12.Tourist Sites/Activities
  13. 13.Tailored Specialty Tours
  14. 14.Company’s Reputation:
  15. 15.Miscellaneous Amenities:
  16. 16. Book Agreement:
  17. 17. Free Time: research, planning execution
  18. 18. Price:


How do you evaluate tour quality factors?

Are free time factors different from overall tour quality factors?

Do tour quality factors influence price and if so, how?

Which tour quality factors are most important?


How to use the following Tour Factors?  [sub-pil lk. ]

I suggest that you quickly scan through the tour factors below to get a "feel" for them. Then, go back through a 2nd time making note of those features that are most important to you. NOW,  you are ready to search the Internet for tour companies offerings for your ideal package tour.

see ruf example. [sub-pil lk. ]


Tour Factors (concise ______; GO TO [sub-pil lk. ]. for in depth discusion

1) Where tours go or can’t go?

Package travel tours roam every continent except Antarctica & the Arctic which are usually accessed by cruise ship. The larger tours tend to travel between the most popular countries, cites and sites: Europe’s London, Paris & Rome: Tower of London, Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum. Or, Asia’s Cambodia, China & India: Angor Wat,.Forbidden City, Red Fort. 


Smaller, tailored specialty tours can seek out unique, off the beaten track: Portugal’s Porto’s Harry Potter bookstore  or Myanmar’s New Bagan’s, Golden Bagan Lacquerware Shop.


However, there are ALSO places don’t want to visit for security, health etc reasons. India is mind bogglingly filthy not only air quality, but seemingly everything including the restaurant’s kitchen. Russia today (7/31/2022)


Some countries are just plain dangerous. Top Ten Most Dangerous Countries for Travel: 1) Colombia,2) Lesotho,3) Nigeria, 4) Burundi, 5) Mali, 6) Mauritania, 7) Chad, 8) Pakistan, 9) El Salvador & 10) Honduras


2) Tour Length: 

Your choice of tour length is dependent on 1) how much time & money you want to spend, 2) what you want to see & do, & 3) and how much energy you have.


Tour lengths generally fall within a range of 4 day to 21 days. However, Madventure offers two 450 day journeys from London to Sydney, via South Africa, if you have the time, energy, money and interest.😃. 


Shorter tours have been trending recently perhaps because. travel costs have been generally increasing for both tour companies and travelers. Consider that, respectively, gas cost (6/21/22): USA @ $6/gal; Hong Kong:$11.35, Europe: $8-10/gal US as of 6/22;  ’air fare’: 25%) —-  forcing tour companies to:

1) increase costs, &/or 

2) reduce quality, quantity or scope of their tour’s offerings: food, lodging, sites & activities, &/or 

3) increase their itineraries’s ‘free time’ which reduces tour company’s costs transferring ft expenses to traveler’s discretion. 


Traveler’s, in response to rising costs and tour prices, are choosing shorter less expensive tours to:

1) maintain the same quality level of tour amenities: food, lodging, & travel sites, and 

2) stay within their same travel budget. 

In interested in a specific package tour ask how many peeps/bus;  if some tours have more or less passengers. 


Shorter tours in 2021 averaged $1,200 to $2,500 per person rising to $7,000 with a significant cohort paying, well beyond that. Yet, Google search of recent price/guest for “for private jet high end African tours “ —- $130,000 per person. Yikes!!!


Your task is to navigate tour company cost cutting strategies for offerings to provide your desired amenities within your available budget.  You might also consider 2 or more short tours over a year or so.



3) Advertised vs “actual’ travel days: 1st & Last day are usually NOT touring days

A tour’s advertised number days e.g.”Great Britain & Europe Delights - 14 days” is usually 2 days LESS , or 12 because:of industry tradition and …:

1) The Itinerary’s 1st Day is actually the chaotic, partial arrival day with very little, if any, actual travel; perhaps an evening walkabout or group dinner.

2) The Itinerary’s Last Day is usually the “breakfast only” departure day .

  • IOW, 8 Advertised Tour Days may be only 6’actual’ days, etc.
  • CAUTION: Be sure to anticipate your before & after accommodation & meals costs your tour depending on your air tickets or on-going travel plans.


4) Tour Size:  large vs medium / small. —-  PROs & CONs   [Pil BK lk  ]  

Mass market package tours generally range in size from 30 guests to 55 with some outliers at 60 people /bus + 1 tour guide & driver. Recently however, travelers apparently demand smaller group tours capped at around 12 or 20 guests for a much richer cost & time efficient experience. 



My Rick Steves Travel bias —— [LINK. A2 expand]


In my 30 years, my only packaged tour was taking a few of my high school students to Italy on an EF Student Tour.  My 30 years of domestic and foreign travel have been solo independent travel. During the 1st 20 years of foreign travel. I relied 1st on Lonely Planet guidebooks and then Rick Steves’ books when they became widely available. 


I developed a strong bias towards Rick Steves' guidebooks and operations because Rick boasted with justifiable pride that his guidebooks were updated every year. Unlike Lonely Planet’s Guidebooks whose “hostel” info in particular was often years outdated. I once followed 3 weeks behind Rick’s visits to his listed hostels. He was updating directly ahead of me. Often I watched his video as a prelude to my own solo trips. 


I have always respected & relied on Rick Steves guidebooks & presumed that his philosophy of committed responsibility pervaded everything he did. His online reviews support my bias. Rick Steves



Large tours:

PROs: least expensive,  



  1. Walking ATM: tour company or supplier’s extra profit
  2. cattle herd mentality:  the larger the tour group the greater the need to control / regulate wit regimentation, rules etc. 
  3. "blitz" tour itinerary: high speed, frehnetic maximum site visits so you will get your money’s worth.. 
  4. Rushed site visit because packed intinerary’s schedule must be adhered to. 
  5. Only sites/activities easily-accessible by big buses; many site lack big bus access & parking.  [YTclip. just be Uzusipis ]
  6. Lower quality food: large capacity restaurants catering to large tour groups with dubious quality food [LINK. t Petersburg.]
  7. Inconvenient lodging: tourist processing big box tourist hotels located on town outskirts far from ft tourist walking areas except w/o Uber or else, UR hotel-captive; good for 1 nite "pajama" stays; 
  8. Packed major sites: many buses arrive @ 10:30am with latest departure @ 3:30pm
  9. 10.Expensive ‘optional’ site visits; 
  10. 11.“shop steering” guests to unlisted, impromptu attractions and shops from which they receive kickbacks.

 bus bag llimit, porterage of one bag per person

Small > Medium tours (24-28): 


1) favored guest status: more personalized, friendly, 

2) more relaxed itinerary & site visits: less hotel/ sights on/ff time bus, 

3) off-itinerary flexibility: if schedule changes or groups desires; 

4) smaller, less visited sites: greater accessibility to 

5) better quality: food, lodging & lodging location; 

6) guides : probably more qualified guides 


CONs: more expensive



5) Guest Age:

Group travel market seems dominated by Retirees: 41% i.e 60 > 70 years, but all ages tour particularly on specialty tours: singles, gay & adult only..



Guest age may not seem relevant, but actually it is. Older traveler’s (me @ 82) tend to seek a  reasonably calm, quiet experience which would definitely conflict with an exuberant family dominated tour, and vice versa. OTOH, if you are an energetic young family hell-bent on exciting adventuring, a predominantly older aged tour might seem restricting. Not an indictment of either; merely a practical consideration. 


While the package tour group travel market may be dominated by retirees (41%) from 65 upward, package tours accommodate almost all age groups including families with children. However, many individual tours are designed JUST for specific age group preferences … occasionally to the exclusion of others e.g adult-only tours.


Other tours companies either welcome children over a a certain age e.g., 6 years or can design a family-with-children experience. [Jump LK] Ironically, some tour companies appear to exclude anyone OVER 90.  Traveler’s in their 20s, 30s & 40 may naturally migrate to the more tailored package tours including more adventurous, kid/family friendly, youth tour profiles [SEE “Tailored Specialty Tours:” below]

Travel trends by age demographic:



6) New Friendships:   memories

All types of folks book mass market package bus tours: all ages, genders, nationalities, cultural backgrounds. 


Packed together in a bus of 50-60 people for a week or more often sitting in same seats creates great opportunities for new friendships. Friendships that not only enrich your travel experience, but may stretch that pleasure out into the future as lifetime friends or memories. 


You’ll find an over-50, all-American crowd with Globus, Cosmos, Overseas Adventure Travel, Trafalgar, Grand Circle Perillo Tours . Rick Steves Tours. Intrepid, Djoser and G-Adventures tend to have a broader age range and an international clientele, while Intrepid is primarilly Australian and Djoser is Dutch (tours in English), and G-Adventures is Canadian. If it REALLY matters to you, most companies will be upfront with this type of information.


Package bus tours are excellent opportunities to ‘discover’ different kind of humans that you've never encountered before at least on a 1 to 1 basis. In a world apparently nearly traumatized by the various genders, race sensitivities and work a package tour might be the very place to gain a new awareness.


OTOH, you may also be next to someone you don’t like for any number of reasons. If so, quickly & proactively seek out & connect with others you believe you would like to know better. Usually, if stuck, you can change seats and avoid the issues so you can fully enjoy your hard-won vacation time with. Tour leaders can be helpful with this issue.


7) Lodging: BEST: intimate, welcoming family-owned 

….RATHER THAN huge, impersonal, antiseptic large bus-tour hotels sometimes owned by the tour company. 

  • location:          BEST: Near or in Old Town tourist areas for free time walkabouts 

        RATHER THAN, on outskirts of town far from walkabout sites & good food, sites & shops either 1) holding you hostage or 2) requiring Uber in & out of authentic walkabout areas.



8) Multi-nite vs overnight stays: BEST: multi-nite stays more relaxing & more ft  opportunities.

           RATHER THAN some high speed/ low cost, ‘stay 1 nite only and quickly move on’ (think - ‘cheap’) tours aka "Pajama tours” (..we could've just kept our pajamas on for most of the trip!!) 


” …. a series of one-night stands? Bus drivers call tours with ridiculous itineraries "pajama tours." You're in the bus from 8 a.m. until after dark, so why even get dressed?” , Rick Steves’ Europe


This intense travel speed may allow more city & site visits, but IMO, you gain “sense of where you are.“ and equally important, it sucks the energy & pleasure out of your overall experience.


OTOH, 2 or more nights in the same hotel may, to be truthful, reduce the number of sites visited, BUT it will dramatically make your entire visit more worthwhile. Seek a balance.


Benefits of multiple OVN (overnights):  BEST: at least 2 nights.  [sub-pil lk. Quality vs $] ???

1) reduces the hassel of packing & unpacking.

2) minimizes chaos & wasted time of daily hotel departure & arrivals, particularly if curiously jumping between cities by air.  ANECDOTE:  SOL:  Donna’s Lisbon, debacle


3) Reduces dragging bags a block or 2 down narrow streets buses can’t negotiate. ANECDOTE:  SOL:  Donna’s Lisbon, debacle 


4) Reduce dragging luggage up & down stairs. NOTE: Rick Steves’ Caution on some tours> "Carrying luggage: You must be able to carry all of your own luggage, sometimes up a minimum of three flights of stairs or more.”


5) Deepens your connection with the towns people, restaurants, shops & tiny parks in your local or Old Town neighborhood particularly if you are preferably near the tourist Old Town areas, ANECDOTE:  SOL: My early morn London walkabout

6) Reduces the drain on your precious energies,

7) Allows for more time at sites/activities.

8) More, deeper ft opportunities.


9) Restaurants: BEST: authentic, local, non-buffet tour meals.

RATHER THAN, high volume, bus tour / large group food. 

  • Ideally, you get to seek out several free time lunch & dinner opportunities. Ask your guide, lodging desk or locals what they recommend.
  • Ironically, the local folks who work your hotel desk, in tourist shops etc probably speak English and can direct you to their favorite restaurants off the beaten path. Then, grab an Uber and go!!     ANECDOTE:  SOL: Paris  
  • Successful locals restaurants will NOT annoy their local customers by catering to large tour groups.  TIP: Americans are known for talking loudly. Please don’t.
  • Some company’s may conveniently drop you off at tours end amongst ethnic restaurants.


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