The Pros And Cons Of Student Tour Experiences
While I was abroad my roommate won a raffle. Shocking, I know. Nobody ever wins a raffle. But somehow, her name got picked out of the hundreds of entries, and she won a free ticket on a student tour weekend trip to the Almalfi Coast of Italy. Since it’s no fun to travel alone, she asked me if I’d like to come along. Obviously I said yes, and we split the cost of a second ticket so that I could go as well.
The weekend in Italy was amazing. We got a boat tour of the island of Capri, ate pizza in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii and watch the sun set over the ocean in the tiny town of Sorrento. But, there were definitely things I would have done differently.
For those of you who don’t know what a student tour experience is, here’s a quick summary of the one that I traveled with. First up, you pay online for a ticket. This ensures you rooming and transportation during the trip, as well as some entrance fees and other minor costs. You are responsible for traveling to a certain meeting point (usually an airport), as well as food during the trip and your travel home.
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? For the most part, it is, but as with all things, there are both pros and cons to trips like this. So, if you’re looking to travel during your time abroad, here’s a list that will hopefully help you figure out if these student tour experiences are the right choice for you.
Pro: You don’t have to worry about accommodations.
Finding a place to stay can sometimes be the most stressful part of planning any trip. One of the best aspects of these student tours is that all the accommodations (and other important stuff) are booked by the company, so you know the place you’re staying at will be nice.
Con: You don’t have much freedom over your schedule.
The downside to having a company do all the planning is that you have very little freedom over your schedule. When you plan your own trips you can change things in an instant depending on what the people you are traveling with feel like doing. But, with a student tour, you are roped into a fairly strict schedule. While you’ll have a great time with the plan laid out by the guides, the lack of freedom may be frustrating at times.
Pro: You have a guide/leader who knows the area and (probably) the language.
All the guides for tours like this know exactly what they’re doing. They’ve probably led the same trip a few times and will know all the best spots. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the native language, having someone to turn to when you need translating help can be insanely helpful and make you feel more comfortable. It’s nice to have someone to turn to when you need a little (or a lot) of extra help.
Con: Everything can take a long time.
The downside to these guides is that they tend to lead everyone in the same direction. They’ll know the best restaurants and so all the students will flock to one or two places. While the food is probably AMAZING (i.e. giant calzones at a tiny family restaurant), there may be so many people headed to one spot that getting in, getting food and getting out may take quite some time. This is also true for certain stores or attractions that the guides may recommend.
Who doesn’t love saving a little money? Most companies will have stores and restaurants that they work with that will offer discounts to students traveling there through the specific company. This is a great way to get the most out of your trip and also save a few bucks.
Con: You might not realize how much money you are spending.
Since you buy the ticket in advance, you might not realize how much money you’ve already spent on the trip. It’s easy to get carried away by a big group of people and forget to keep an eye on how much money you’re shelling out in a day. (Tip: You may want to take out a set amount instead of using a card so you can see how much you’re spending in a tangible way!)
Pro: You get to meet new people!
One of the best parts of a trip like this is getting to meet people your age from all over and hear about their study abroad experiences. While some people may just be your frie nds for the few days you spend together, you may meet some new besties. You never know!
Con: The people can be a lot to deal with.
This is a tough one that I experienced during my student tour. While college kids will be college kids, there are always going to be a few that take it too far. If you’re looking for a more relaxed time (i.e. not surrounded by a few individuals who are more than a little buzzed the whole time), then you may find it best to plan your own trip, where you can separate yourselves from people you may not want to spend the entire weekend with.
All that being said, my weekend trip to Italy was a-MAZ-ing. I had so much fun and I have many memories (and a few souvenirs) to last a lifetime. While student tour experiences are a great way to see new places, they may not be for everyone, and that’s okay! Whether you use these companies or not, I hope that you get a chance to explore as much as possible while abroad! I highly recommend the Amalfi Coast.