CAN YOU AFFORD A PRIVATE TOUR?
Private tours aren’t cheap. Like a private jet isn’t cheap, or having your own yacht isn’t cheap, or going to a private school isn’t cheap. But when you are on vacation you are ready to indulge a little bit. And a private tour is definitely cheaper than any of these luxuries I mentioned before!
A private tour is a totally different experience from going on your own – you get to see the city from the eyes of a (knowledgeable) local, sparing you lots of time planning and getting oriented, and showing you things you’d be missing on your own. It’s also very different from being on a group tour, where you are simply listening to a guide but can’t really interact with them much and the opportunities to make questions are limited.
Not to mention that there’s often “that person” in the group that thinks they “own” the tour and don’t respect timings, constantly interrupt the guide with their (often irrelevant!) questions, and disrupts the group dynamic with their complains. All this doesn’t happen on a private tour, because YOU are the boss and the tour is designed to your pace, interest and needs. And our guests agree that the experience is so worth the money.
These are our best tips for affording private tours:
Don’t be overly ambitious
We sometimes get those emails of people asking for the most expensive service: long hours, private driver plus guide, entrance fees, marvelous lunch, pier or airport pick-up… Just to complain that in (whatever other city or country) it was way less expensive. Don’t do that mistake, because it’ll just bring you disappointment. The economy of two countries and their rates can’t compare, and even the prices between two cities in the same country can be really different.
You can’t even be sure that what one tour operator offers is exactly the same as the other one does – so each company is entitled to ask for whatever they think it is fair. If you are conscious of your budget, stick to basic tours: in our case, that’d be 4 hours walking tours or even our 1.5 one-site mini-tour.
They are actually our best-sellers! And that’s because even if short and cheaper, you take a lot out of that time, and you’ll end up with a great overview and understanding of the city and lots of ideas to continue exploring the city on your own.
Plan well ahead
Everyone knows that airplane fares and hotel rooms are usually cheaper if you book several months in advance. By booking your plane early you can spare a few hundred euro (specially if you are traveling with your family or a group of friends), and that saving can go directly to pay your private tour.
Do not fall in the trap of waiting until last-minute thinking fees will go down: that might happen with airplane seats or bad hotel rooms that need to be filled up, but it’s not the case for private tours because the best tour guides book up quickly plus organizing last-minute tours is often a nightmare as we need to coordinate available guides, drivers and site tickets that are selling out. We are actually considering adding an extra fee for those booking last-minute – at least during the high season.
Save on your hotel room
Hotels are one huge investment on a trip, and we don’t usually spend that much time there as we want to experience the city, not the hotel lobby. Consider using your credit card points to pay for your hotel and use the savings for a private tour. Or downgrade from a 5-star hotel to a 4-star (actually if you can afford a 5-star hotel in Barcelona, it’d be quite surprising that you couldn’t afford already a private tour).
Travel with more people
Private tours have usually a cost per tour, not per person. What means you’ll be paying the same if you are traveling solo or with your significant other, than if you are a family of 6, or two couples traveling together. If you can split the cost with your travel mates, the rate becomes much more reasonable than when you think of paying the full final cost.
And even if it’s you with your kids, consider what you’d be paying for 5 tickets of a bus group tour and you’ll realize that the cost isn’t too different from what you get for a much more personal and flexible private walking tour. If you are definitely traveling solo or in couple, there’s still the option of checking travel forums such as Tripadvisor or Cruisecritics to find people to share the tour with you. We’ve had clients do that in the past and it worked out well.
One dollar a day
What about the old good piggy-bank? Can you afford to put a dollar a day on it? Call it the “private tour” piggy-bank. And ask other family members or travel mates to participate on it. Maybe pass on your daily latte, or bottle of water, or snack from the vending machine.
Babystep by babystep, after a year of doing it, you’ll have saved enough to pay for your first private tour and it won’t even have hurt your wallet. I know, money gurus like Ramith Sethi will tell you that cutting back on coffee won’t take you far and that you should get a pay rise instead (and teach you how to do it).
But I do believe that when you do it for an achievable goal such as the cost of a private tour, it can definitely take you where you want to go. Make your numbers: one of our basic 4-hr walking tours costs you as much as 3 months of a Starbucks latte a day!
What’s your secret technique to affording private tours?
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