I don’t consider myself a travel snob by any means, as I’m quite happy to stay at a seedy hotel or hike through the mud holding my suitcase on my head when I consider it an adventure.
I have to admit, however, that I have often looked down on package tours as being the lazy person’s holiday. I’ve even been known to moan loudly and roll my eyes when it has been suggested to me that I should take one. “It’ll be fun,” they say. Oh sure, like poking myself in the eye with a sharp stick.
However, now that I’m in my 50s and single I’ve been viewing them in a different light, and I had my preconceptions turned on their head when I went to China with Wendy Wu Tours recently.
To be truthful, and for full disclosure, I wasn’t completely single since it was my parents who asked me to go, and as I love seeing them whenever I can, and they are dyed in the wool world travellers, how could I refuse?
So when they suggested I join them on a trip to China for 10 days, I swallowed my pride and jumped on the package tour train.
I had a blast, loved it, enjoyed it thoroughly and discovered that these types of tours are a great way to see the world especially as a single. Being single, I had the choice to pay extra to have my own room or share with another single female traveller.
After pondering this situation for a while I decided to jump in and experience the single share experience to the hilt. I’m a mellow person, not easily upset, and if my earplugs could drown out any loud snoring, it could be interesting.
My roomie was funny, vivacious, and outgoing. She probably found me very boring and staid, but I couldn’t have had a better roommate.
We fell into a routine fairly quickly, I woke and showered first, we both did our own thing, and finished every night in the room with a stiff nightcap and some gossip – totally perfect. Is this to say you will have the same great luck that I did, possibly not, but then again you just might.
Everything was organised, from airport pick-up, tours, hotels, and meals. I didn’t have to think about how to get to places, what would it cost, where am I going to stay, and how am I going to travel from one city to another. It was very relaxing frankly.
All the usual planning headaches erased before I even boarded my plane. There is definitely something to be said for letting someone else do all the organising. We were given a very comprehensive ‘Tips on Travelling in China‘ list, which gave us information on what to expect, what to pack, and what we would be doing.
Our tour included Shanghai, Xian and Beijing, including the Great Wall. Since walking the Great Wall was on my bucket list everything else was gravy on top for me. The tour guide Jason (they just assume we will mangle their real names), was amazing, informative and could corral a herd of angry bulls if he put his mind to it, which I do believe is a prerequisite to be a tour guide, considering all the personalities he has to deal with.
I felt safe, looked after, and had someone to call if I did get myself into trouble or lost, which didn’t happen, by the way, but I had a point person to contact if it should.
My group was all Brits, Kiwis and Aussies aged from mid-thirties to seventies, so we actually all got on like a house on fire. So this is one thing to consider when booking a tour, get a general idea of who your fellow travellers are as they can make or break your experience. Ours was generally a good group of people, we all got on, and as long as there was beer available at some point during the day, quite mellow.
Safety was a priority, being comfortable and well fed another, and making sure we learnt something about China and it’s people and gained some understanding of China today yet another.
It was evident the guides loved what they did and wanted us to love China. I totally did. A home run Wendy Wu – I would do another tour with your company for sure.
A great big xie xie from me.
Things to think about when booking a package tour
- Ensure it has the things on it you most want to see. There is free time and half days on your own but most of your time will be organised for you.
- Be flexible. Things can change due to weather, traffic, and the foibles of varied personalities. Learn to roll with the punches.
- Inquire as to the people and their ages travelling with you. The group dynamic can make or break a great trip.
- Half the fun is learning about others – not just the country you are travelling to but the people you are travelling with. You can meet future travel buddies on these tours. Other singles you like and would love to travel with again.
- Try not to have too many expectations and you will enjoy yourself a whole lot more.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if you are unhappy. They want you to enjoy yourself. Just be respectful and discreet. You get a lot more with honey than you do vinegar.
- Think safety, especially as a single female. Package tours give you a group, a guide (with insider info on almost anything), prearranged hotels and tours. This means no or little credit card use or large amounts of cash hidden everywhere on your person. It also gives us females comfort in numbers, and the assurance that we are less of a target to rogues and robbers. Even with this said, always maintain situational awareness.
- For those going to Asia, work on your balance for when you have to use the older happy houses. Using them means less of a line for those with full bladders.
- Lastly:Just pack your bag, let someone else worry about all the details, and go enjoy yourself!