Should you plan your own Italy trip or book a tour?


The topic of whether to plan and book your own Italy trip vs. going with a package tour has come up a few times recently, both on the WhyGo Italy Facebook page and in the comments of some of the articles here on the site, so I thought I’d take a moment to post my thoughts here.

So, should you book your own Italy trip or go with a tour? My short answer is: it depends.

Those of you who have poked around on the site probably won’t be surprised to hear me say that. On certain topics, I’m happy to take a stand – but most of the time, I don’t feel like it’s my place to lay down some kind of travel law everyone must live by. I’m just happy y’all are traveling, y’know?

And now, yes, here’s my longer answer.

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I genuinely believe that planning and booking your own trips, no matter where you’re going, results in more rewarding travel experiences. This is partly because you, as the traveler, get to see the process through the whole way, from sowing the seeds right up to harvest. It’s extremely gratifying to do your research to find, say, a secret ticket window in Florence that lets you get reservations to bypass the line in front of the Uffizi – I give you permission to feel a bit smug when it works just like you heard it would.

Besides the personal satisfaction of a job well done, however, there is the simple fact that when you’re on an organized tour you don’t have the leeway that’s required for spontaneity. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few hours of free time each day, but asking serendipity to adhere to a schedule sort of defeats the purpose. Making your own agenda (or making up your mind not to have one) gives you the freedom to explore whatever strikes your fancy. Spend longer in a cafe because you’re having a great conversation with a stranger, seek out a suburban flea market to look for treasures, or take a wrong turn on purpose just to see where it goes. In my own experience, it’s these unexpected detours that have led to some of my most cherished travel memories – and most would have been impossible if I were being shepherded around on a tour.

All of this waxing on about the merits of planning your own trip, and I still think “it depends?” Absolutely.

Planning your own trip to Italy does require more work than booking a package trip, there’s no getting around that. If you’re one of the many over-worked people who barely has time to do the grocery shopping, let alone research hotels in Venice, you might feel a panic attack coming on at the very thought of figuring out all the details involved in trip planning. Folks, travel is supposed to be fun. The best kinds of trips include challenges, I firmly believe that, but the overall feeling shouldn’t be one of dread, obligation, or discomfort.

The bottom line is that you need to listen to your gut – what are you comfortable doing? Do you get excited about planning your own trip, or does the very idea make you want to stay home? The answer to that question will tell you whether you should go DIY or book a tour. Either way, so long as you’re getting out and seeing the world, that’s a good thing.

photo by pmorgan67