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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Decide Which Tour Group is Best for You

Most group tours today consist of Boomers and those 10 years younger. Since we are the generation of joggers, exercise bikers, and elliptical skippers, we are more active and fit than many of our parents. They were happy to sit on a bus and look out of the windows on their first trips overseas. How can a Boomer determine if a tour is too sedentary or too active for her level of fitness? Here are some tips from a fairly fit, though sometimes lazy Boomer traveler and tour operator:

Look at the photos of people in the travel brochure. Do they look like you? What kind of shoes are they wearing? Too dressed up, they are not doing 2 hour walking tours of Rome. Too sporty with hiking boots, they might be outpacing you on a climb to the top of a Turkish hill fort. Their hairstyles will also tell you if this is a casual group or one that ‘dresses for dinner’.

What is the pace of the itinerary? Too many included meals mean a lot of sitting around. More than a half-day bus tour per day means very limited activity. Choose a tour that has a mix of meals, bus tours, free time and some early arrival days at the hotel. Why early arrival? If you have eaten a 4 course French lunch with mousse, then you will want some time to exercise or to take a long walk. Most hotel gyms overseas will be small and, in a European hotel, very limited in scope.

Check the schedule of events for the trip. Factor in your personal tolerance for altitude, dryness, sea level humidity, heat, cold etc. An example is if you go to countries like Guatemala, Costa Rica or Mexico, check the altitude and let your body adjust before you climb the mountain to get the best view. Or if you live in a high city like Denver, you will probably want adjustment time before you do your early morning jog in humid Honduras. I was once on a trip to China with 3 women from the Virgin Islands. They were used to the tropics and to drinking lots of water. Beijing is very dry and it was a cool day. They did not realize how dehydrated they were until one of them turned a weird color and fainted!

Find out how large the group is. A small group moves faster than a group of 50 due to general loading of buses, check-in at airports, delivery of luggage etc.

See if the tour you choose includes a rating for physical exertion. And if not, just be sure you can handle everyday obstacles like cobbled stones in Sicily, broken stairs leading to a Thai temple, sandy walks in Ephesus, steep staircases in the Marinsky Opera House. I am a strong advocate for limited luggage. There will always be one time when you must handle your luggage, even if it is in your hotel room moving from one area to another.

Click on 'Comments' below and follow the prompts - you can even sign on as Anonymous, it's as easy as that! Then ask our guest blogger, Phyllis Stoller, your travel questions. And share your adventure stories with other readers as well.

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