It depends! There is no one size fits all answer. The best way to travel depends on many things, but here are a few key factors.
- Your REASONS for travelling.
- Are you going solo or with friends from home?
- The duration of the trip.
- Your personality.
- The location.
If you are going to travel to finally take a long deserved break from your 60 hours weeks in a stressful job. Then I highly doubt you want to spend your break cramming your brain with loads and loads of new information. This can be in the form of a new language, new ways to function, new food, and figuring out a new public transit system every other day. In this case you would be far better off going somewhere you are semi-familiar with or travelling with a group. In a group you’ll get to chill out. The company guide will take care of all the logistics, bargaining, scams, hotels, bus tickets and taxi rides. You are just there to clear your mind, not play Indiana Jones.
Are you going solo or with friends from home?
If going solo, nothing is stopping you from meeting people on the road. While traveling, you’ll meet tons of people but they aren’t always going your way. You could meet new people in Bangkok that seem like they are an awesome bunch but they are going to Chiang Mai… the city you just came from. That can be kind of a drag. Unless you are lucky and meet the perfect traveling partner, you’ll have to get used to short term friendships. If you want to stay with the same people for the duration of the trip, develop better, longer lasting relationships and start developing inside jokes and all that fun stuff, group travel is definitely the better option.
The duration of the trip
If you are leaving for a very short period of time like 1 or 2 weeks. It would be better to go with a tour because they have years of experience in making the perfect itineraries. You might go solo, hoping to see this and that during your week only to find out that the bus only leaves every other day to that destination. The group travel businesses know this! And they plan for it way in advance allowing you the opportunity to see everything they said you would see… GUARANTEED! On the other hand if you have 4 months, go solo! Take your time, missed the bus? Oh well. Now you know, you have months ahead of you.
If you’re a very stressed out individual, dislike being out of your element, not a huge fan of change but still want to see beautiful places, going solo might just give you a long headache. You don’t want to come back home with anger and new prejudices! Obviously, the group tour option would be a good one for you. If you are easy going, don’t mind looking stupid in public, think that getting lost or scammed is part of life and love the growth you’ll get out of bad experiences, go solo.
If you are going to hard to reach places where you either need a car (or worse a 4×4 truck) to get to. Going solo is pretty much out of the question (unless you have tons of cash on hand!). Some national parks require a 4×4 vehicle to get around. If you show up with just a tent, and hiking boots, you won’t see much! I speak from first hand experience. I tried to visit Kaeng Krachan national park in Thailand by foot. I thought they had hiking trails. I was wrong! I had to turn back. Think also of things like safaris, some last for a few days, some for a few weeks!.
Now if you are heading to an easy access location where you know you’ll find someone that can understand you, find English menus etc. Nothing wrong with going by yourself!
So take this into consideration when daydreaming about your next trip. So many things are a factor in determining the perfect vacation. But these are the main issues that should help you figure out what the best way to travel is for you.