The world is full of spectacular festivals, ancient traditions, and madcap celebrations. Whether it’s a holy festival in India or a Christmas market in Europe, chances are they’ve been on your bucket list for years. Now you’re finally going. Here’s how to choose the best holiday tour for you.
To have your whole trip arranged for you, from travel itinerary to flights, hotel accommodation, and choice of restaurant, choose a guided holiday tour. You’ll benefit from your guide’s local knowledge to explain what you’re seeing and to get you to places that only insiders know. If you’re after total flexibility, a self-guided vacation allows you the freedom to change your itinerary and make side trips to locally recommended attractions or hang out in a city with new friends. You’ll save money upfront but the downside is that you’ll have to put in time organizing your transport and accommodation, and there’ll be no profession backup in case of an (unlikely) emergency.
Where to Go
Visitor numbers really ramp up in Germany around Munich’s legendary Oktoberfest and again before Christmas, when traditional festive markets light up in cities across the country. Taking a guided holiday tour will help negotiate the rowdy bierkellers of Munich, delivering you to the heart of the fun. Likewise, expert guides can lead you through Berlin’s 60 Christmas markets or travel the country with you to markets in historic Dresden, Leipzig, or Cologne.
Brash and chaotic but endlessly fascinating, India really lends itself to tailor-made holiday tours. The great Hindi festival of color (Holi) and the multi-faith festival of lights (Diwali) are just two in a year-round schedule of festivals attended by millions of devotees across the subcontinent. Full of color, water fights, fireworks, and ritual, they can be confusing to the uninitiated and you’ll appreciate having a tour guide to walk you through the celebrations -- and the crowds!
St Patrick’s Day on March 17 is Ireland’s biggest public holiday when streets from Dublin to Cork are crammed with merrymakers sporting green hats and lucky shamrock, many of them locals. Basing a holiday trip to the Emerald Isle on the week around this date will give you time to explore the Wicklow Mountains and travel through the lush beauty of County Clare. Then all you’ll need to do is arm yourself with a pint of the black stuff, practice your dance moves, and join in the legendary St Paddy’s day parades.
A vibrant series of festivals take place in Spain all year round, from the somber Lenten carnival in Cadiz to August’s free-for-all food fight during Buñol’s La Tomatina. The town’s population expands from 9,000 to more than 50,000 in the week of the festival and now tickets are issued, limiting participants in proceedings to 20,000. Traveling as part of a guided holiday tour ensures that you’ll be one of that lucky 20,000 and guarantees accommodation in or around Buñol.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in a Holiday Tour
You’ve picked your travel destination and you know what you want to see. The holiday tour you chose should reflect this in its proposed itineraries and should be led by a credible, reliable company. Remember to book well in advance so you get your pick of flights and accommodation; this is especially important if those details are not included in the holiday tour you purchase.
Average History Tour Cost & Length
Depending on your chosen destination and the length of your vacation, guided holiday trips can cost from US$500 to upwards of several thousand dollars. Self-guided tours may not be as expensive but are considerably more time-consuming to organize.
There’s no set length for a holiday tour; you could be away for a weekend or a couple of weeks if you want to explore more of your destination -- the world is your oyster!
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
First things first; make sure you pack your passport, travel insurance, and tickets in your hand luggage. What else you decide to take depends on your destination, but if you’re traveling around on your holiday tour, invest in light bags or a small case on wheels, and always pack less than you think you’ll need.
If you’re heading to the sun, take swimwear, flip flops, shorts, and light, baggy T-shirts, and shirts. Don’t forget the sun cream, sunglasses, and sun hat. Scarves and sarongs are perfect as cover-ups when sightseeing and for any chills in the evening.
When holidaying in colder countries, take lots of layers, a stout pair of boots, thermals, gloves, and a scarf. You’ll need a heavy waterproof jacket, so wear it while traveling to reduce baggage weight.
Pack old clothes if you’re traveling to Spain’s La Tomatina, as you’ll end up covered in squashy tomatoes, or Holi, where psychedelic-colored powders are thrown around with abandonment.
Wherever you’re going, carry insect repellent and anti-histamine lotion in your wash bag plus a first-aid kit and any personal medicine. Take travel adaptors as well as chargers for your laptop, camera, and cell phone.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be required to rent anything on a guided holiday trip as your accommodation, transport, and food will be covered in the cost of the vacation. If you’re heading out on your own, take all these expenses into account and consider renting a car to travel around.
- Book your holiday tour early. Thousands of other people are heading to your destination at the same time so flights, local transport, and accommodation will be scarce.
- Visa and currency requirements will vary according to your destination.
- Keep some local currency in cash separate from your credit cards. If they are stolen, you’ll still have some emergency funds.
- Instead of taking books, pack an e-reader to save space and weight in your bags. Back up your photographs on The Cloud so you don’t run out of memory on your camera or cell phone.
- Try to learn some basic phrases including “Please,” “Thank you,” and “My name is …” in the local language. It will be much appreciated at your destination.
Health & Safety
Qualifications & Training
All that’s needed for traveling overseas on a holiday tour is a keen sense of adventure, joy at meeting new people, and a readiness to encounter new experiences.
Traveling overseas on vacation is unlikely to expose you to many risks but always heed medical requirements for individual countries to avoid falling ill with preventable diseases such as malaria.
If you’re intending to practice extreme sports like skiing or climbing, make sure your travel insurance policy covers you for injury and repatriation.
With terrorism an unlikely but ever-present threat, the US Department of State offers up-to-the-minute advice.
Always take out appropriate travel insurance before going overseas.
Carry copies of your travel documents, insurance, and passport on your person. And never leave your luggage unattended.
If you’re sightseeing in cities, dress appropriately. If you wear beach clothes, you’ll show yourself as a tourist and may be targeted by local scammers or thieves.
Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and follow local dress customs to avoid giving offense.
It’s very unlikely that you’re going to meet with any problems on your holiday tour. However, a good general rule is to wear your daypack on your front in airports, train stations, and around famous attractions where crowds and pickpockets gather. Secure the zips on your daypack with zips ties.
Women should wear your pocketbook on a long strap across your body to prevent it being snatched.
And lastly, remember that the vast majority of people out there are friendly, trustworthy, and honest.