We take most of our vacations as self-guided tour except for our trip to China a few years ago. It was ironic that China was the only place we took a commercial tour because we speak Chinese. We have been to many suburban places in Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Indonesia where people didn’t speak any English (or Chinese) and we were able to get by on our own. Once we were in Spain where we were lost and had to ask for directions. I managed to ask the question, where is the train station, by consulting my phrase book but I couldn’t understand the answer. The lady was friendly and drew on the dirt where we were and where we needed to go to the train station. It was an adventure.

We like to tour on our own because we enjoy the freedom of going to places whenever we want. Commercial tour has its advantages, the biggest one being everything is already taken care of: lodging, transportation, points of interest, and even food sometimes. Some people also enjoy meeting people on tours. The only thing to decide is which tour company to go with and the rest is to sit back and enjoy. And, typically, it can be educational as tour guides also provide interesting tidbits on places and people. Although one can probably obtain some similar information from tour books but it may require a lot of reading. Vacations should be relaxing, not being stressed out from planning. No wonder commercial tour is a big business. Of course, there may be places where we may not want to be on our own such as African Safari and Nepal trekking.

Of course, there is also the money issue. Some think that a tour is a cheap way of traveling. It may be true in some cases but the cheapest way is always on your own, hitchhiking and camping. We spent an average of $104 per day that included every expense: gas, lodging, food, entertainment, car maintenance, gifts, ferry, supplies, souveniers, etc. That was not bad for 4 persons and we ate very little of fast foods.

We don’t like to plan things. We like to think a trip is an adventure. Picture Rocks National LakeshoreGetting lost can be an adventure itself. I guess we enjoy unknowns. Of course, there probably wasn’t any tour we can join to tour the country for nearly 4 months. We didn’t plan too much for this trip: no reservations and no fixed schedules. We skimmed over some information initially but read more and asked around as we neared places. There were tons of information just about anywhere we went. Although we most likely missed out on some information that tourist guides might provide, we also had a lot of unplanned adventures on this trip: fossil hunting, Mt Baker, synchronous fireflies, the Green Gable, Apostles NL, Picture Rocks NL (see right), Effigy Mounts NM, Bruce Peninsula, Jewel Caves, COSI Columbus, Seneca Rocks, Harper Ferry, and many others. And we met many friendly campers and learned about the camping world where many people camp in RV for a whole summer. I have found that when we toured a place and read about a place on our own, we remember it better.

So what is for you? Do it yourself or do it for you?