Is a Self Tour or Tour Group for Cycling Holidays better?
This is the question a lot of people start with for their overseas cycling trip.
And it’s a fair question, especially if you’ve never organised a cycling trip before or are heading to an overseas country that is not English speaking (which is a daunting prospect for many people).
The truth is, cycling trips can be frightfully expensive due to the time of year (European summer for example) or distance from where you are and the simple fact you’re likely paying for accommodation.
There are pros and cons of both tour groups and self touring, and each approach will suit a different budget and person.
Tour groups are a great way to get to know a country. (Never let it be said I am biased!)
- All the small stuff is taken care of: transfers, accommodation, most meals and a litany of other minutiae.
- If you’re on a Tour de France or other event tour, you’ll often get VIP access to certain areas or the route of the day itself.
- Language barrier is usually not a problem.
- Each day is organised: get up, ride, eat, enjoy. No faffing around.
- You will save a bunch of time not having to organise anything.
There are some potential disadvantages to tour groups, such as:
- Increased cost
- Riding ability of other tour participants
- Fairly rigid itinerary
- Short duration tours
Cost of Cycling Tour
A tour group is also a great way to make an already-expensive proposition even more expensive.
A tour group can typically cost (AUD) $4000-$10000 (or more) for a 1-2 week trip (most tours are limited to a 7-14 day trip, with longer ones lasting 3 weeks.)
Moreover, tour costs don’t include flights, which is a major cost impost for those flying from overseas, like from Australia to Europe.
Flights during peak season will typically be at least $2,000-$3,000 (Australia-Europe; Us-Europe probably similar), so an 8 day tour plus flights can cost from $6,000.
Tours often don’t cover all meals and drinks, so you’ll need to budget for spending on the tour as well.
If you consider that 8 days or 2 weeks in Europe won’t be enough for most people travelling from overseas, then you’ll need to add another week or two on, which will considerably increase your trip cost.
You could add another $1000 for another week.
All of a sudden, you’re looking at a lot of money.
Remember that, with a tour group, you are paying for the profit of the tour company and a lot of ancillary apparatus like on the ground guides/interpreters or other infrastructure or special access.
Other members of tour group
On top of that, if you’re with strangers, what happens if you don’t like who’s on the tour? (Ok this might be slightly petty, but still.)
And as someone recently recounted to me about his very expensive, very private Italian tour; how do you ensure everyone is up to the same level riding.
This person (who we’ll call Phil) tells me he and his travel companion were so far ahead of the other tourers that they’d often be waiting atop an Alpine Col for an hour or more (in one case, after a long ascent in rain and cold.)
Compared to tour groups, self touring is a very cost effective way of organising a cycling trip.
I have organised my own cycling trips numerous times, and once you know how to do it, and what to watch out for, it becomes pretty straightforward.
Planning your own cycling trip can take many, many hours of research and back and forth with travel agents.
However, once you know how to do it, it does take less time, but is still a decent time investment.
The advantages of self touring:
- Much more cost effective especially if you don’t camper van (more on that here)
- More flexible, no fixed itineraries
- Choose your own adventure
About the only “downside” for self-touring is all the organising.
Planning a cycling trip takes a serious amount of time investment to ensure that you have a hassle free trip.
However I honestly find all the organising part of the fun! And I pretty sure there’s no way Mrs VeloNomad would want to miss out on all the planning and reading endless travel sites.
So, Self Tour or Tour Group for Cycling Holidays?
If you have lots of cash to spare and can’t be bothered organising your trip (or are too busy), and don’t mind having a fixed itinerary, then organised Tours are probably a good option for you.
And whilst I can certainly see the appeal of a tour group – simply turn up and have everything taken care of so you can ride – my preference is to plan it myself. (Having said that, if I had oodles of money to spend, and was going to Europe anyway, I’d consider an 8 day tour so I could just ride.)
If you would like to save your money, like digging in and planning your dream trip and having a lot more flexibility in your plans, then self-touring is for you.
If you’re planning a cycling trip to France, you should definitely check out the Cycling in France guide.
If you are planning a cycling trip elsewhere, check out the Cycling Holiday Planning information starting page, where you’ll find loads of links to articles showing you the “whats” and many “hows” for planning cycling holidays.