Should you take a tour or travel independently? This question has always challenged travelers. Dollar for dollar, a well-organized, escorted tour can’t be beat for safety, convenience, and economy. “An escorted tour is one of the most enjoyable, stress-free, memorable vacations you can take,” according to Mark Kazlaskaus, president of Insight Vacations, a part of the Travel Corporation. A tour is a trip taken by a group of people who travel together and follow a fixed itinerary. Tours include hotels, most meals, sightseeing, land or other transportation—all planned in advance–plus the services of a professional tour manager. The price is usually lower than if all these elements were priced separately. The group usually travels by motorcoach and sometimes trains or boats. On Insight Vacation’s Elegance of Britain Tour, travelers take an old-fashioned steam engine along the shores of Lake Windermere and a boat ride, the best way to see the stunning scenery of England’s Lakes District.
Some people mistakenly think that tours and vacation packages are overly regimented or lack adventure. Not true. Tours can be customized to be loosely organized or combined with multiple countries or even set up for both a cruise and land tour. For singles, seniors, and the disabled, a tour provides assistance to see the world in a way you would be hard-pressed to do on your own. On a recent Insight tour, two handicapped gentlemen were able to keep up with the group. This tour was at a leisurely, easy pace and took in the verdant English country side.

We also visited with Insight the town of Stratford, place of Shakespeare’s birth and the wonderful Royal Shakespeare Theater, located on the lovely Avon River.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace Stratford and Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Another stop was the town of Haworth in Bronte country. We visited the well-preserved homestead and parsonage of the Bronte sisters whose novels, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, have sold millions and were turned into Hollywood movies.

Holy Trinity Church

Insight Vacations explains the key advantages of escorted tours:

Peace of Mind – Insight professionals do the research to plan escorted tours and organize reliable itineraries, thereby reducing worries for vacationers. This is especially important in some parts of Africa and Asia, where the safety of an escorted group trumps the ordeal of independent travel.
* Lower Costs – Prepayment covers all major expenses so that money concerns are minimized. Volume purchasing makes it possible to charge less for hotels, airfare, excursions, and meals. The traveler benefits from the resulting savings.
Tour Director – It’s like having a “traveling concierge” on board at all times. Directors look after the group and assist with individual needs. They speak the local languages and are experts about the history of all points on the itinerary. They offer advice on sightseeing, shopping and dining as well.
Educational – Local guides with expertise in a given area often join the tour to share their knowledge, the culture and some colorful anecdotes. Or, a naturalist may accompany a trip to the wilderness. When we visited Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, a guide dressed in traditional kilted wear explained the meaning of the bagpipe concert and military display in front of the castle.
Freedom – Will you have enough independence on a group tour? Insight Vacations and many other tour operators build in free time to balance out the organized part of the tour for shopping or browsing the locale.
Off the Beaten Track – A tour can get you into the charming, historic villages that you could have trouble getting to on your own. On the England trip, Insight scheduled a stop at Grasmere, a delightful town in the Lakes District, home of the Beatrix Potter Museum and the famed poet William Wordsworth. Potter was the beloved author of children’s books, such as Peter Rabbit and friends.
Convenience – Most Insight Vacations Tours arrange for two night stays in hotels close to the town center, allowing more time for sightseeing and sampling local cuisine. The ‘Easy Pace’ itineraries have a minimum of three nights in each destination, for even greater flexibility.
Smaller Groups – Insight tours average 32 guests, and often as few as l9, allowing for maximum personalized service. There is no waiting in line at the major tourist attractions, as admissions are all pre-arranged and included in the tour price.
Dine Around – Tours include most dinners, but some are on your own, which means you can check out local cuisine. The tour director will suggest choices.
Travelers can save money by booking early for the lowest price on both the tour and airfare, according to Insight’s Kazlaskaus However, some tour operators offer last minute deals at substantial discounts. Last summer, Insight offered its popular Treasures of Italy tour for $3,565, down from its original $4,199—a savings of $634.

Group travel is healthy and growing. Tour operators saw a ten percent increase in passengers from 2010 to 2011, and bookings are up for 2013, according to the US Tour Operators Association.