Not All Tours Are Created Equal

Not All Tours Are Created Equal

Travel #tours often get a bad wrap. You've seen the groups huddling around one person, usually with that person holding a waving flag or fuzzy flower so they can be spotted. But not all tours are cheesy, some are really #unique and can be a great way to meet people and learn more about the #culture of your destination. Check out some of my favorites and maybe we can break through the tour stereotype!


Many “independent” travelers are immediately turned off by the word tour. They picture large groups huddled around a tour guide with an umbrella or worse, a portable microphone, spouting out facts about whatever random attraction they’re standing in front of. They picture fanny packs and knee high socks and massive tour buses. They hear the names Contiki or Trafalgar or any of the other big name tour companies.

Time to go out on the water!
Time to go out on the water!

But I don’t think you can travel without taking at least one tour. How are you supposed to learn anything about the destination otherwise? When I visit a new city, I do my best to find a day tour to give me an introduction to the city and they are almost always my favorite activities. Pick something interesting to you, whether it be art, music, food or history, and find a tour for it. I’ve included my favorite day tours from my years of travel to prove that not all tours are created equal, there are many that can make your trip memorable.

Vatican Highlights, When In Rome Tours - Vatican City, Italy

A Vatican City tour was one of the best tours I've ever taken
A Vatican City tour was one of the best tours I've ever taken

During my trip to Italy back in 2006, my family and I found ourselves wandering around St. Peter’s Square looking for a way to see the Vatican. A British woman named Julia approached us about taking a tour with her through When in Rome Tours. She was very knowledgable about the history, art and architecture and the entire family remembers it as the high point of our visit to Rome.

from  $125

Arte Vaticana Guided Tour in Vatican

ActiveCulture
 Vatican City
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The Catacombs Tour

Colosseum & Ancient City Tour

Sandeman’s New Europe - Hamburg, Germany

Sandeman’s New Europe Tours are a budget traveler’s best friend. They offer walking tours through 18 European cities, including Hamburg where I first took their tour. My guide Steve talked about the history of the city as an important port and its role in World War II. It meets at the Rathausmarkt daily at 11 am. I also took one of Sandeman’s paid tours to Neuschwanstein Castle in Munich, which I also enjoyed.

All-In-One City Bike Tour, Fat Tire Bike Tours - Berlin, Germany

A bike tour is a great way to see the city from a different angle
A bike tour is a great way to see the city from a different angle

For someone who doesn’t ride bikes at home, I love taking bike tours in Europe. Fat Tire Bike Tours operates tours in Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and London. My guide Julian was able to explain what it was like in post-war Berlin without making it sound like he was reading from a history book. They also run tours that discuss the Cold War and the Third Reich and also have tours at Potsdam and Sachsenhausen.

Standard Tour, Mike’s Bike Tours - Munich, Germany

The folks at Mike’s Bike Tours have been running tours in Munich and Amsterdam since the 1990s. I recommend taking their tour as soon as you arrive in Munich for the best introduction into Bavaria possible, especially as it includes a stop at a traditional German biergarten.

Graffiti In Toronto, Tour Guys - Toronto, Canada

Tour Guys offers unique tour guides around Toronto
Tour Guys offers unique tour guides around Toronto

If you’re visiting Toronto or Vancouver, you can’t do better than Tour Guys. I’ve never experienced a more unique tour than their free Toronto street art tour. Jason knows more about this city and its street artists than anyone else, having met most of them. The tour will help guests understand the difference between art and vandalism in the eyes of the local government and will take you through the city’s most famous alley. Or by bike is also a great way to see the city.

from  $80

Toronto Bike Tour

Active
 Toronto, ON, Canada
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Toronto Beer Tour

Distillery Historic District Segway Tour

Beer Makes History Better, Urban Adventures - Toronto, Canada

Jason from Tour Guys also runs tours through Urban Adventures and operates a tour in Toronto completely devoted to beer. The tour started at C’est What, a fantastic beer bar with brews only from Canada and also includes stops at St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District.

from  $32

Toronto Beer Tour

ActiveAffordable
 Toronto, ON, Canada
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Toronto Bike Tour

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Savor The Flavors, Culinary Tours Of Charleston - Charleston, USA

Cheesy biscuits in Charleston
Cheesy biscuits in Charleston

While I lived in Charleston for four years, I recently had the chance to play tourist with Culinary Tours of Charleston. I learned more about the city I had called home and got to sample the signature dishes I love. If you’ve never tried Southern cuisine before, it’s a good way of being introduced to items like grits, biscuits, collard greens and sweet tea.

Scooteroo Motorcycle Tour - Agnes Water, Australia

I could go on about how much I loved this tour for years to come. It’s the most highly rated activity in Agnes Water, but was one of my favorites for the entire trip up Australia’s East Coast. Scooteroo is a truly unique experience, riding motorcycles through coastal Queensland searching for kangaroos and watching the sun set over the water.

Cliffs Of Moher Day Tour, Galway Tour Company - Galway, Ireland

Gimme Moher
Gimme Moher

I didn’t plan on taking a tour from Galway, but for only €25 we were able to see the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin and Connemara with Galway Tour Company. We stopped at a traditional Irish pub for a lunch of hearty seafood stew before getting blown away (literally) by the famous cliffs. I highly recommend the affordable tours.

Sunset Kayaking Tour, A day Away Tours - Merritt Island, USA

I loved kayaking on Shem Creek, so when I got the chance to go again in Florida’s Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, I couldn’t wait. A Day Away tours focus on the wildlife with manatee sightings and a stop at the bird habitat. They also run tours to see bioluminescence.

Shrimpin’ Excursions, Credle’s Adventures - St. Simon’s Island, USA

Look what I found!
Look what I found!

On a trip to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, I had the chance to cruise with a real shrimp boat. Shrimpin’ Excursions Aboard the Lady Jane allow visitors to see how the seafood industry functions as well as to learn more about the coastal wildlife.

Film Noir Tour, Esotouric - Los Angeles, USA

Film noir fans will appreciate Esotouric's take on Los Angeles history. The company’s bus tours of the city focus on the oddities and surreal like the Black Dahlia murders and the city’s literary and musical legacies.

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