What are escorted tours, and what are their benefits?

Thinking of taking an escorted tour holiday but not sure what to expect? We shed some light on this incredibly popular holiday type.

By Saga team

Published 5 May 2024

Couple of tourists taking picture of Trogir town from castle walls

An escorted tour allows you to sample the best of a country or region without fretting over hotel bookings or missing travel connections.

They work particularly well for large countries, such as Australia, enabling you to visit such far-apart destinations as Sydney, Alice Springs, the Great Barrier Reef and Perth – often within a matter of a fortnight.

They also tend to included incredible experiences such as whale-watching or wine-tasting, often a logistical nightmare for holidaymakers to organise as they could spend hours ploughing through booking websites trying to find the right deal or tour.

Touring by sea

Some tours can also include a cruising element, such as drifting down the river Nile or sailing the Norwegian fjords. Cruise & Tours are an excellent way to view changing scenery and landscapes.

Saga also offer escorted Cruise & Stay options, which combine stays on water and land, giving you more time to explore a city or relax on a beach.

Touring by rail

One of the best ways to view dramatic scenery is from the comfort of a luxury train carriage on a rail holiday.

Saga has escorted rail journeys through the Rocky Mountains, the jungles of India, the glorious Swiss Alps and from Botswana to Zimbabwe.

So what are the benefits of an escorted tour?

There’s minimal planning stress and you only pay once

Perhaps the biggest allure of the escorted tour is that somebody else has organised everything for you. There’s no staying up into the small hours navigating complicated foreign train websites, no kicking the computer with frustration at flight baggage fees and no arguments over where to eat. Instead, escorted tours allow you to relax and enjoy the experience.

Given that usual holiday-planning involves precious hours wasted poring over foreign train timetables or hotel comparison websites, this will come as little surprise to many travellers.

On escorted tours, a benevolent guardian angel (otherwise known as the tour organisers) has already done this for you.

In addition to less planning, nearly all accommodation, transfers and excursion prices will be incorporated in the main price of the escorted tour, allowing you to budget more effectively.

Transfers, tour guides and some meals, along with sightseeing and entrance fees to attractions are usually included too.

Tour reps can be saviours

Holidaymakers often run into problems – everything from lost luggage to over-flowing hotel room toilets.

In the likelihood of such catastrophes, tour customers can relax safe in the knowledge that to know there’ll be somebody on hand to help them.

The reassurance of insurance

Most large operators, including Saga, have their tours protected by ABTA [Association of British Travel Agents] and the government-backed ATOL scheme, which will protect you should your airline go bust.

Escorted tours are more cost-effective for trips to large regions

Want to see South America during one two-week swoop? Well, many escorted tours will enable you to see Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls, Machu Picchu and Chile all within one fortnight.

Attempting to do this yourself would be a costly logistical nightmare.

Escorted tour mythbusting

I’ll be shunted around from site to site with little time to explore

Not necessarily. Saga offers tours at different ‘paces’, with tours ranging from ‘Pace 1’ (travelling for three-four hours a day with a few days for you to relax) to ‘Pace 3’ (action-packed adventures with some long but essential journeys so customers can experience the best of a region).

I’ll be stuck on a coach for days

Maybe this was the case for escorted tours in the 1970s. Today, the variety of transport used on escorted tours is staggering – cruises aboard Turkish gulets, luxury train rides through American national parks, even horse-riding trips through Uzbekistan.

Escorted tours are expensive. I’m better off booking everything myself

Escorted tours mostly have transport, entry fees for major sights and sometimes meals included. Operators often manage to negotiate special rates for these, meaning escorted tours are often cheaper than booking independently. You’re also not at the mercy of dramatically surging prices for flights or hotels.

Escorted tours always include a mandatory ‘souvenir shop’ stop, where I’ll be corralled into buying something.

Most activities on escorted tours are optional, meaning you shouldn’t feel forced into doing things you’re not interested in. If your tour guide does attempt to tack on a souvenir shop stop, you could always shop elsewhere or inform the guide you’d like more time to explore.

I’m limited to eating in the tour’s restaurants every night

If there is a choice of restaurants nearby, you should be free to sample local cuisine independently – at your own expense, obviously.

Find out about Saga's full range of escorted tours and start planning your next adventure.

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