After years of travel, both independent and on group tours I’ve joined and seen dozens of tour groups passing by, and have learned to quickly identify a few key members.
People who didn’t read the description
Young people who only wanted sun, sand, and sex
If drink isn’t available: Shocked to learn that they’ve booked a three week holiday in a country where alcohol is banned. After the initial disappointment they usually have a great time, learn the most and hold the group together with their relaxed attitude.
If drink is available: After over-indulging, everyone will be amusedly waiting for them when they get up late, and spend the day laughing about their hangover.
Elderly people who think they’re on a luxury tour
Often misled by a travel agent, they book a camping tour travelling round remote areas of a developing country on the back of a camel and seem surprised when they’re not sleeping in hotels every night.
They usually have the largest, heaviest suitcase and often can’t carry their own bags. The rest of the group try and help them for a few days, until it becomes clear that they’re just crotchety old buggers that will complain no matter what.
They’re also capable of surprising turns of speed if a freebie or the best seat or room is available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Wronged female divorcees
If it’s a woman who has been dumped by a cheating partner, especially for a younger woman, they’ll be out to prove they’re still adventurous by taking an exotic holiday.
They’ll take every opportunity to tell everyone how much they hate men. Chair breaks – “Probably built by a man”, she slips on a wet path “All men are bastards”. This gets old quickly, so the male members of the tour keep their distance. Sometime in the second week will get drunk for the first time and want to go home, complaining that she can’t understand why the men don’t seem to like her.
After over-indulging, everyone will be annoyed waiting for them when they get up late, and spend the day listening to their groaning about having a hangover.
If there are more than one they instantly become best friends until one gets friendly with the male tour guide and is jealously outcast.
Very unadventurous with food and activities, often even griping at others for trying something new and unusual.
Resigned Male Divorcees
Male divorcees are usually sweet and kind fathers who are missing their kids. The effort of travel in the developing world often comes as a crushing disappointment after years of having their dinner on the table when they get home from work and never considering helping with the housework.
Always end up growing a stubbly beard.
Young Alpha Males
Like to think they know what they’re doing now they’ve got a job and left home. On a camping trip they’re soon revealed as completely inept at cooking and washing without their mothers.
Get helped through by the angry divorcees who take on the role of the mother to the son their bastard of an ex-husband couldn’t provide.
Often end up growing a wispy beard.
Middle-aged Beta Males
There to meet women. They know that their thoughtful and caring personality will shine through to women after an extended time forced together on a tour.
Even though there are plenty of spare seats will sit next to the prettiest girl and talk about themselves incessantly, even if she’s asleep, wearing headphones and has mentioned she has a boyfriend.
Often seen taking photos of their imaginary ‘holiday romance’ rather than the scenery.
Can’t grow a beard.
Generally lovely people enjoying their retirement.
In my experience, Canadians always have the best stories; Australians like to repeatedly tell everyone how great their life is in Australia and Japanese have the most interesting gadgets.
Those pretending they’re not on a tour
These are the people who are out discovering the world and ‘finding themselves’ but didn’t have the time or confidence to go alone.
Usually first off the bus or coach they’ll do their best to get all the photos before any tourists can get in the shot. This can work well on safari in Botswana, but seems silly in a crowded tourist area like a Moroccan Souk.
Those that come as a couple often stay somewhat aloof from the majority of the group – by the second day they’ve firmly decided who they like and who they don’t.
They really want to feel like they’re travelling independently, but are always there on time so as not to inconvenience the group and secretly love that they don’t have to spend time worrying how to get from place to place by local transport.
Having been on numerous tours the stereotypes above are those that I’ve seen the most and are now easy to identify. Most tours are just made up of people having a great time, out to enjoy their holiday and meet a few new friends.
A lot of hard-bitten travellers will turn their nose up at group tours, but particularly for those with limited time or with friends and partners on a different schedule, they’re a perfectly good way to enjoy travel.
Since leaving work and having more time my need for group tours is over, but I don’t regret them in the least (except maybe one…). I guess I fit somewhere in the last two categories, depending on the location and how well I speak the language.
In somewhere like Vietnam or Cambodia I’m there for a good time and to see the sights. Somewhere more exotic like Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan I’m more about learning from and interacting with people so tend to wander off from the group, whilst secretly loving not having to wait for hours in a bus station, get on the wrong train or all the other more-fun-in-retrospect pitfalls of solo travel.