I’ve taken guided tours before. In some places, like the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg Russia, you can only enter as part of a tour. Guided tours are more expensive, of course. You have someone to make arrangements for you, to navigate through crowds, and to help with solving problems should one arise — like if you get sick or separated from the group or lose your travel documents or something.
There are downsides to a guided tour. You can only go as fast as the slowest member in the group. You make more bathroom stops. If you decide you like a place and want to stay longer, you don’t have that option. You’re stuck with the other people in your group, whether you find them congenial or not.
The most interesting trade-off to me is the dependence v. independence thing. Part of the fun and challenge of travel is precisely having to negotiate the world in an unfamiliar place — including problems. That’s how we continue to grow and learn. Having a guide can lull you into mindlessness, and what good is that?
I think that at this point, I’m still active and alert enough to prefer doing my own thing, unless I was going to a place like Bhutan where you really need someone helping you make your way. I think I don’t like guided tours for the same reason I don’t like cruises: too much of a forced march feel.
That said, I’m happy to be in Philly, and have loved most of the things we’ve done. All good. 🙂