Public or Private Tour? The first time I went to the Cape of Good Hope, 13 years ago, was on a public tour and we made several stops along the way to buy trinkets and other things that I didn’t care for. I would have preferred to spend more at time at Llandudno, and at the Cape itself.
Last year, when I returned, I hired a driver for a private tour. The first perk from the getgo was the unscheduled stop at the Old Biscuit Mill, Cape Town’s beautiful Saturday farmers market where we got to pick up some goodies to enjoy throughout the day. We skipped some things that are popular on the public tours and stayed longer at others. My favorite was having time to climb the rocks at the famous Cape sign and getting so close to these guys.
Basic research. So this one might actually seem obvious, but I’m always amazed to find people who didn’t research what they were getting into before they signed up for a tour. On my Barton Creek tour in San Ignacio, Belize, this past December, there was a man – an adult – who repeatedly complained about his tour company who “failed” to tell him there was wading through water involved in the ATM cave. He made it sound like it was all their fault for keeping him in the dark and he kept talking about it.
So yeah do your own basic research to understand what you’re getting into before signing up for day tours.
Refunds vs. Rescheduling. I usually book day tours when I arrive at my destination vs. ahead of time. I like to maximize flexibility in case things change as some activities are weather dependent. And you never know what can happen with flight cancellations/delays etc. Before you book day tours ask about refund policies. Some companies will not issue refunds and just reschedule you for another day. But that may or may not work for you.
Gear. You might need to buy some gear before you head off. A lot of travel blogs encourage you to buy stuff at your destination. Personally that’s not my style. Whether it’s hiking shoes or deodorant, I prefer to have my stuff and not spend time finding/shopping.It also depends on the destination. Last year on Champs-Élysées, shopping WAS the fun! But in Arenal earlier this year, I happily spent time in-between tours staring at the volcano from my hotel room vs. out shopping.
I was surprised at how many people signed up for ATM but didn’t know that they needed water shoes or rather that they would be walking through water for a good portion of it.
Visas, documents. Some tours include border crossings. When we went to Zimbabwe last year and did a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana, my husband, a Canadian, had to get a double entry visa when we arrived in Zimbabwe. If we hadn’t done our homework and bought him only a single entry visa when we entered Zimbabwe, we wouldn’t have been able to visit Chobe, which would have been a big shame as it truly is majestic!
Similarly in December we crossed into Guatemala from Belize and some tour companies included the border crossing fees in the tour fee and others didn’t. The ones that didn’t had to wait in line a lot longer.
What language(s) is the tour given in? As a (typical) American, I assume tours are in English, but a few years ago my tour guide to the Phi Phi Islands repeated EVERYTHING he said in English…and German…and Spanish and Russian. While I was insanely impressed with our guide’s language skills, I was audibly exhausted by the end of the tour. And I would have either done a private tour or chosen a different company.
Are any meals included? And are there any vegetarian or vegan options? The world in general, especially tourist areas, is getting much better about dietary restrictions and vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diets but you really have to ask and specify your dietary needs. And don’t assume that meals will be included in your fee.
Sometimes they’re not included at all, or only a portion. For example in December I did an all day snorkeling tour to Hol Chan Marine Reserve with Anda de Wata and the entree was included but beverages were on our own.
Pay with cash or credit card? Last year on my wine tour to Stellenbosch with Wine Flies, they didn’t take credit card and I didn’t have any Rand so I had to head over to an ATM. (There are lots of ATMs throughout Cape Town but I wanted to use one partnered with my US bank so I wouldn’t have transaction fees; and it turned out that one was a little bit away from my hotel).
Similarly Anda de Wata on Caye Caulker charged 12.5% GST if you pid by credit card. So ask ahead of time.
Transportation. If you get sea sick, carsick etc. get your meds etc.
As the world gets smaller and info is accessible online, day trips and tours get better and better. Have a brilliant time wherever you’re headed next and please tell us if this article helped you in the comments below!
Day trips are great! They’re perfect for going out and exploring for a whole day and then enjoying a nice, fun, and relaxing night back in town or at my lodge. Destinations around the world have got the day trips down pat and offer fun, safe, action-packed trips for travelers.
To maximize the experience, I have recommended 9 things you can do…basically doing your homework before you head out.
Happy travels and cheers to adding more stamps in your PassportPages!
When I’m not traveling and/or adventuring (and even when I am), I operate my tech startup, ShaadiShop. ShaadiShop is a marketplace for Indian-friendly wedding venues in California.
During undergrad I decided to study abroad which triggered my travel passion. I lived in Adelaide, Australia for a year and after that, for the next 10 years I spent 1-2 months each year, traveling to various destinations around the globe, on my own while I managed my direct marketing company.
I think traveling solo, prepared me to become an entrepreneur – journeying into new experiences, figuring it out as you go, self-reliance, facing your fears head on, trying new things, and so much more!
Then I decided to get a Masters in Business Administration, and I met my husband. Now we travel around the globe together and often. I love backpacks, vegetarian and vegan cooking and of course planning our next trip. I’m also kinda addicted to blueberries. =p
I created the PassportPages travel blog, to provide nuanced, detailed travel advice, tips, and hacks for traveling all over the world — from a unique and different perspective than the other popular travel blogs. There aren’t as many travel blogs geared towards:
- nuanced, detailed travel tips and advice
- vegetarians/vegan travelers
- ethnic Americans, Canadians, and others
- petite women
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